Feature Article - June 2022
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Trends in Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges and Universities

By Emily Tipping


In the next pages, we'll take a closer look at the responses from professionals at colleges and universities, who made up 10.1% of the survey respondents, down from 13.6% in 2021.

This year, more than six in 10 college respondents were from either the Northeast or the Midwest. Some 30.9% of college respondents said they were located in the Northeast, and another 30.9% were located in the Midwest. The next largest group, 23.6%, were from the South Atlantic region. Just 7.3% of college respondents were located in the South Central region, and 7.3% were located in the Western states.

College respondents were most likely to be from suburban communities. Some 43.6% said they were located in the suburbs. Another 29.1% said they were from urban communities, and 27.3% were located in rural areas.

College respondents reach an average population of 18,200 people, down from 32,110 in 2021. Nearly three-quarters (73.2%) of college respondents said they reach a population of 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 50.9% of non-college respondents. And just 1.8% of college respondents said they reach a population of 100,000 or more, compared with 18.6% of non-college respondents.

A majority of college respondents (57.9%) said they were with public colleges and universities. Another 36.8% were with private, nonprofit schools, and 3.5% said they were with private, for-profit schools.

On average, college respondents manage 3.2 facilities, down from 3.7 in 2021, and 5.1 in 2020. They were slightly more likely to manage three or fewer facilities than non-college respondents, while being very unlikely to manage 10 or more. More than seven in 10 (70.2%) college respondents said they manage one to three individual facilities. This compares with 67% of non-college respondents. And while 15.3% of non-college respondents said they manage 10 or more individual facilities, just 5.3% of college respondents have at least 10 facilities to manage.

College and university respondents were slightly less likely than others to report that they had partnered with other organizations, though a majority had done so. Some 80% of college respondents said they had formed partnerships with other organizations, compared with 82.9% of non-college respondents. College respondents were more likely than others to report that they had partnered with other colleges and universities, as well as with state government. Nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities, compared with just 25.4% of non-college respondents. And while 40% of college respondents had partnered with state government, 31.6% of non-college respondents had done so. Other relatively common partners for colleges and universities included local schools (36.4%), local government (27.3%) and nonprofit organizations (25.5%).

Revenues & Expenditures

After being the least likely to report revenue increases in 2020, respondents from colleges and universities were still among the least likely to see an increase in 2021, and were the most likely to report that revenues had fallen in 2021. Some 46.3% of college respondents said their revenues decreased in 2021, compared with 24.6% of non-college respondents. Another 27.8% of college respondents said their revenues in 2021 had remained unchanged, while 25.9% reported an increase. (See Figure 50.)

In 2022, college respondents are beginning to expect a return to normal, though they were still among the most likely to expect revenues to decrease. Nearly half (46.3%) of college respondents said they expect their revenues to increase in 2022, while 29.6% expect no change, and 24.1% expect a decrease. They were more optimistic about 2023, with 60.8% expecting revenues to increase, 31.4% expecting no change, and 7.8% expecting a decrease.

While the general survey population reported a decrease to average operating costs from 2020 to 2021, college respondents reported a steeper decline. Respondents from colleges and universities reported an average operating expenditure of $1,380,000 in 2021, 14.3% lower than the average for 2020 of $1,610,000. This compares with a 5.2% decrease for the general survey population.

Looking forward, college respondents are expecting a sharp increase to operating costs in 2022, more than making up for the previous year's decrease. Their average for 2022 was $1,660,000, an increase of 20.3% over 2021. This is followed by a 5.4% projected increase from 2022 to 2023, to an average of $1,750,000.

On average, college respondents said they recover an average of 50.6% of their operating costs via revenues, up from 42.8% in 2021. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they recover 30% or less of their operating costs. More than a third (34.6%) of college respondents said they recover 30% or less of their operating cost via revenues, compared with 25.2% of non-college respondents. Another 21.2% of college respondents said they recover between 31% and 70% of their costs via revenues, and 28.8% recover 71% or more (up from 22.8% in 2021).