Feature Article - June 2008
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Fit and Healthy on Campus

Participation & Budgets

The National Center for Education Statistics projects growth of about 4.9 percent in the total fall enrollment in degree-granting institutions between 2007 and 2010, and growth of 13.8 percent between 2007 and 2016. However, respondents to this year's survey were more likely to predict a steady number of users at their facility through 2009, and many cited concerns about the number of students attending their facilities.

One supervisor of grounds from a Pennsylvania college said enrollment numbers were a top concern, "particularly with the way the economy is going." He added, "We hope to keep our enrollment numbers up."

A dean and athletic director from a Tennessee college said, "We can only meet budgetary requirements if we meet enrollment needs."

Enrollment in schools overall obviously impacts the number of students, faculty and others using the school's recreation facilities. While 43.7 percent of college and university respondents said they had seen an increase from 2006 to 2007, another 51.6 percent said they had seen no change in the number of people using their facilities in that time frame. From 2007 to 2008, 55.6 percent said they expected no change in the number of people using their facilities, and from 2008 to 2009, nearly 58 percent said they expected no change. Just over 40 percent expected to see an increase in that period.

Just over 62 percent of respondents from colleges and universities indicated that they charge a usage or membership fee for their facilities. For many schools, the fee for usage of recreation facilities is built into the student's annual tuition and fees. For others, a separate fee is required, particularly for extras like equipment and locker rental.

Far fewer college and university respondents were expecting to see any increase in their revenues over the next few years than the average respondent, and they also were less likely to have seen an increase from 2006 to 2007. In that year, 38.7 percent of all respondents said their revenue had increased, while less than a quarter (21.7 percent) of college and university respondents' revenue had increased. More than three-quarters (76 percent) indicated that their revenues had remained flat between 2006 and 2007. For the next two years, just over two-thirds (69.6 percent for 2007 to 2008, and 68.9 percent for 2008 to 2009) of college and university respondents expect their revenues to remain the same, compared to just over half of all respondents for the same time period.

At the same time, colleges and universities were projecting a slightly higher-than-average growth in their operating costs. Respondents projected a growth rate of 15.3 percent from $1,232,100 in fiscal 2007 to $1,421,000 in fiscal 2009. And indeed, budgets are a top concern for the majority of respondents in this category.

Another respondent from an Arkansas university said the budget was a challenge because it was not increasing as the facilities expanded. And a manager of a facility at a university in Alaska said the budget troubles at his school meant the facility would have to become self-sustaining. Lack of state funding was cited by respondents in many locations throughout the country as a major setback.

With the economy still struggling to make its way out of the doldrums, the news is not likely to get any better for these respondents for some time.