Feature Article - June 2020
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Trends in Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities


In this section, we'll examine the trends reported by college and university respondents to the Industry Report Survey, who made up 9.5% of all survey respondents in 2020.

College respondents to the Industry Report Survey were more geographically diverse, compared with other groups of respondents. They were more likely to be found in the south of the country, with 21% in the South Atlantic region and 21% in the South Central region. Another 25% were located in the Northeast. Some 17.7% were to be found in the Midwest, and 15.3% were located in the West.

College respondents were also more evenly divided in terms of community type, being only slightly more likely to be found in urban areas than in rural communities. Some 35.5% of college respondents were located in urban communities. Another 33.1% were found in suburban communities, and 31.5% were located in rural areas.

On average, college respondents said they reach a population of 55,550 people, well above 2019's average of 22,420. College respondents were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer, while being far less likely to reach 100,000 or more. More than two-thirds (67.7%) of college respondents said they reach 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 41.3% of non-college respondents. On the other hand, just 8.1% of college respondents said they reach an audience of 100,000 or more, compared with 28% of non-college respondents.

Around two-thirds (66.9%) of college respondents said they were with public colleges and universities. Another 29% were with private nonprofit schools, and 4% said they were with private, for-profit schools.

On average, respondents from colleges and universities manage 5.1 facilities, up from 4.4 in 2019. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they manage between one and three facilities, while being less likely to manage 10 or more. Two-thirds (66.7%) of college respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, compared with 54% of non-college respondents. On the other hand, while 8.1% of college respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, some 20.6% of non-college respondents manage 10 or more.

Respondents from colleges and universities were somewhat less likely than their counterparts to report that they had partnered with other organizations. Some 83.5% of college respondents (up from 78.5% in 2019) said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 89.5% of non-college respondents. The most common partners for college respondents were other colleges and universities. Some 64.5% of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities. Other slightly less common partners for college respondents include: state government (36.4% of college respondents said they had partnered with the state); local schools (32.2%); local government (27.3%); and nonprofit organizations (24%).

Revenues & Expenditures

Over the past several years, college respondents have been less likely than others to report that their revenues had increased. The year 2019 was no different, with 29.5% of college respondents reporting that their revenues were higher in 2019 than in 2018, compared with nearly half (49.4%) of non-college respondents. Another 57.4% of college respondents reported that their revenues had not changed in 2019, and 13.1% reported a decrease. (See Figure 47.)

At the time that the original Industry Report Survey was taken in January, slightly more (31.4%) college respondents were expecting to see an increase in revenues in 2020, compared with 2019. Another 57.6% were expecting no change, and 11% were expecting a decline. Not surprisingly, the COVID-19 Update Survey results paint a much different picture, with no college respondents now expecting higher revenues in 2020 than in 2019. Just one in 10 (10.3%) were expecting that their revenues would remain the same this year. Of those, more than half were expecting to see no change or an increase in 2021.

The vast majority—89.7%—of college respondents to the Update Survey said they now expect their revenues in 2020 to be lower than 2019. More than half of college respondents (55.2%) said that revenues would fall from 10 to 20%. Another 23% are expecting a decline of 30 to 40%. And 11.5% are expecting a drop of 50% or more.