Colleges & Universities

A Look at Trends in Colleges & Universities

While states have restored some funding to public colleges and universities, state spending still remains well below historical levels a decade after the Great Recession, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. In a report titled, "Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher Education Threaten Access and Equity," the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities states, "Overall state funding for public two- and four-year colleges in the school year ending in 2018 was more than $7 billion below its 2008 level, after adjusting for inflation."

Schools have adjusted by raising tuition and fees, while cutting services, increasing the debt burden on students and their families while providing fewer course offerings and other services. Campus recreation and sports programs have not been spared as funding has dwindled, though many schools still see these types of programs as a crucial tool for boosting interest from prospective students, as well as quality of life for existing students.

In this section, we'll examine the trends reported by college and university respondents to the Industry Report survey, making up 10.6 percent of all survey respondents in 2019.

Respondents from colleges and universities were slightly more geographically dispersed than other respondents. More than one-quarter (27.3 percent) were located in the Midwest. The next largest group, 22.7 percent, were located in the South Atlantic states. Another 18 percent were found in the West, while 17.3 percent were in the South Central region, and 14.7 percent were in the Northeast.

College respondents in 2019 were more likely to be found in urban communities. Some 37.6 percent of college respondents said they are located in urban areas. They were followed by suburban college respondents, making up a little more than a third (33.6 percent) of the group. They were least likely to be found in rural areas, though 28.8 percent of college respondents said they were located in rural communities.

On average, college respondents said they serve a population of 22,420 people, significantly lower than the average of 43,910 reported in 2018. College respondents are more likely than non-college respondents to report that they serve a population of 20,000 or fewer, and are far less likely to serve 100,000 or more. Nearly two-thirds (66.4 percent) of college respondents said they reach 20,000 or fewer people, compared with 41.1 percent of non-college respondents. Conversely, only 2.7 percent of college respondents said they reach an audience of 100,000 or more, while 22.5 percent of non-college respondents reach a population of at least 100,000.

A majority (64 percent) of college respondents said they were with public colleges and universities. Another 30.7 percent were private nonprofit schools, while 5.3 percent said they were private, for-profit schools.

Respondents from colleges and universities manage an average of 4.4 facilities, representing no change from 2018. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they manage between one and three facilities, and much less likely to manage 10 or more. Just over two-thirds (67.3 percent) of college respondents said they manage between one and three facilities, compared with 53.9 percent of non-college respondents. At the same time, while 8 percent of college respondents said they manage 10 or more facilities, 21.1 percent of non-college respondents manage at least 10 facilities.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had partnered with other organizations, though a majority had done so. Some 78.5 percent of college respondents said they had formed such partnerships, compared with 89 percent of non-college respondents. The most common partners for college respondents were other colleges and universities. Some 62.4 percent of college respondents said they had partnered with other colleges and universities. Other more common partners for college respondents include: local schools (37.6 percent of college respondents had partnered with them); local government (27.5 percent); state government (26.8 percent); and nonprofit organizations (26.2 percent).

Revenues & Expenditures

College respondents were less likely to report that their revenues had increased from 2017 to 2018 than non-college respondents. Some 28.5 percent of college respondents said their revenues had increased in that time frame, compared with 43.9 percent of non-college respondents. At the same time, 17.4 percent of college respondents reported a decrease in revenue, compared with 11.1 percent of non-college respondents.

The percentage of college respondents who reported both increasing and decreasing revenues has grown over the past three years, from 23 percent reporting an increase and 12.4 percent reporting a decrease in 2016, to 28.5 percent reporting an increase and 17.4 percent reporting a decrease in 2018. (See Figure 45.)

Looking forward, college respondents are slightly more likely to expect their revenues to increase over the next two years, though less than one-third are projecting an increase. In 2019, 30.5 percent of college respondents said they expect revenues to be higher than the previous year, while 14.2 percent expect them to be lower. And in 2020, 31.6 percent expect higher revenues, while 10.3 percent are anticipating revenues to be lower.

While all respondents reported a 1.1 percent increase to operating expenses from 2017 to 2018, college respondents saw a 15.5 percent increase, from an average of $1,930,000 in 2017 to $2,230,000 in 2018.

However, looking forward, college respondents projected a 1.3 percent decline in operating costs from 2018 to 2020, from $2,230,000 to $2,200,000 in 2020. This compares with a 3.8 percent increase in average operating costs for all respondents.

On average, college respondents report that they recover 34.5 percent of their operating costs via revenue, up from 33.5 percent in 2018. Colleges and universities, as well as schools and school districts, have the lowest cost-recovery rate of the facility types covered by the survey. They were more likely than non-college respondents to report that they cover 10 percent or less of their cost via revenues: 17.9 percent of college respondents vs. 11.8 percent of non-college respondents. More than half (52.4 percent) of college respondents said they recover 30 percent or less of their operating costs via revenues. Another 8.3 percent recover between 31 percent and 50 percent of their operating costs. Some 6.2 percent earn back between 51 percent and 70 percent of their operating costs. And 17.9 percent of college respondents said they recover at least 71 percent of their operating costs via revenue. (Another 15.2 percent don't know what percentage of their operating costs are recovered via revenues.)

Whereas the percentage of respondents overall who have taken action to reduce their operating expenses has fallen somewhat over the past few years, the percentage of college respondents who had taken such action increased from 76.2 percent in 2018 to 79.1 percent in 2019. This compares with a slight decline for non-college respondents, with 81 percent taking action in 2018 and 80.5 percent taking action in 2019. The most common strategies used by college respondents to reduce their operating expenses include: improving energy efficiency (43.9 percent of college respondents have taken this action, up from 40.9 percent in 2018); reducing staff (31.1 percent); reducing hours of operation (28.4 percent); increasing fees (27 percent, up from 22.6 percent in 2018); and putting construction and renovation plans on hold (27 percent, up from 22.6 percent in 2018).

College respondents were nearly twice as likely as non-college respondents to report that they had reduce their hours of operation. Some 28.4 percent of college respondents said they had cut their hours, compared with 15 percent of non-college respondents. They were also more likely to report that they had cut programs and services. Some 23.6 percent of college respondents said they had cut programs and services, compared with 17.2 percent of non-college respondents.

College Facilities

After falling substantially over a few years, the percentage of college respondents who reported an increase in the number of people using their facilities year-over-year held steady in 2018. In 2015, 51.9 percent of college respondents said the number of people using their facilities increased, while 41.3 percent saw an increase in 2016, and 38 percent saw an increase in 2017. In 2018, 38.1 percent of college respondents said the number of people using their facilities had increased, while 54.4 percent reported no change, and 7.5 percent saw a decrease. (See Figure 46.)

Looking forward, slightly fewer college respondents expect to see an increase in usage in 2019 (37.7 percent), while 43 percent are anticipating an increase in 2020. At the same time, the percentage expecting usage to decrease climbs to 8.9 percent in 2019 before falling back to 4.2 percent in 2020.

While the number of respondents with construction plans overall has grown over the past several years, for college respondents those numbers have held fairly steady. In 2019, 58 percent of college respondents said they have plans for construction, up from 54.1 percent in 2018. This compares with 72.1 percent of non-college respondents.

There was a significant increase in the number of college respondents who said they have plans for renovations at their existing facilities, from 37.1 percent in 2018 to 46.7 percent in 2019. Another 22.7 percent said they are planning new construction, while 23.3 percent are planning to make additions to their existing facilities. (See Figure 47.)

The amount that college respondents have budgeted for their construction plans fell 20.4 percent in 2019, from an average of $9,500,000 to $7,560,000. This is likely due to the much higher number planning renovations and slightly lower number planning new construction. As is generally the case, college respondents have the highest construction budgets, planning to spend nearly twice as much (48.8 percent more) as the average for all respondents. Looking back to 2017, when there was a more comparable number of college respondents planning new construction, construction budgets have fallen 2.9 percent, from an average of $7,786,000 in 2017 to $7,560,000 in 2019.

There was little change in the past year in the features most commonly found among college respondents' facilities. The 10 features that are currently most common include: fitness centers; locker rooms; indoor courts for sports like basketball and volleyball; exercise studio rooms; bleachers and seating; classrooms and meeting rooms; Wi-Fi services; indoor aquatic facilities; indoor walking/running tracks; and natural turf sports fields.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they have plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. While 44.1 percent of non-college respondents said that they have such plans, just 33.3 percent of college respondents said they will be adding features. This is down from 36.5 percent in 2018.

The most commonly planned additions for college respondents in 2019 include:

  1. Synthetic turf sports fields (planned by 26 percent of college respondents with plans to add features)
  2. Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (16 percent)
  3. Bleachers and seating (14 percent)
  4. Fitness centers (14 percent)
  5. Natural turf sports fields (14 percent)
  6. Indoor tracks (14 percent)
  7. Outdoor sports courts (12 percent)
  8. Exercise studios (12 percent)
  9. Locker rooms (12 percent)
  10. Outdoor aquatic facilities (12 percent)

Synthetic turf sports fields continue to hold the top position among planned features, though the number who plan to add them fell from 32.3 percent in 2018. Commonly planned features in 2019 that did not appear in this list in 2018 include fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment, natural turf sports fields, outdoor sports courts, and outdoor aquatic facilities, perhaps suggesting that some colleges are eager to get their students moving in the great outdoors.

Programming

The vast majority—99.3 percent—of college respondents said they offer programming of some kind at their facilities, up from 96.9 percent in 2018. This compares with 96.6 percent of non-college respondents who said they provide programming in 2019. Fitness programs continue to be the most commonly offered program among college respondents. Some 91.2 percent said they provide fitness programs, up from 82.8 percent in 2018.

Other programs commonly found among college respondents' facilities include: group exercise programs (85.7 percent); mind-body balance programs such as yoga and tai chi (79.6 percent); functional fitness programs (63.3 percent); swimming programs (62.6 percent); sports tournaments and races (60.5 percent); educational programs (59.2 percent); individual sports activities such as running clubs or swim clubs (59.2 percent); adult sports teams (57.8 percent); and personal training (55.1 percent).

In addition to fitness programs, other program offerings that are provided by more college respondents in 2019 than 2018 include: mind-body balance programs (up from 71.2 percent); swimming programs (up from 53.4 percent); sports tournaments and races (up from 54.6 percent); educational programs (up from 55.2 percent); individual sports activities (up from 48.5 percent); and adult sports teams (up from 46 percent). Group exercise programs and functional fitness were new additions to the survey in 2019.

College respondents were less likely than non-college respondents to report that they had plans to add more programs at their facilities over the next few years. While 32.2 percent of non-college respondents have such plans, 24.7 percent of college respondents are planning to add programs. However, this is up from 2018, when just 20.6 percent of college respondents said they planned to add programming.

The top 10 planned programs for college respondents include:

  1. Functional fitness programs (did not appear in 2018)
  2. Day camps and summer camps (up from No. 4)
  3. Nutrition and diet counseling (up from No. 8)
  4. Personal training (up from No. 10)
  5. Group exercise programs (did not appear in 2018)
  6. Fitness programs (down from No. 1)
  7. Educational programs (down from No. 3)
  8. Adult sports teams (did not appear in 2018)
  9. Sports tournaments and races (down from No. 6)
  10. Sport training (did not appear in 2018)

New to the list in 2018 are functional fitness, group exercise, adult sports teams and sport-specific training. These programs replace mind-body balance programs, holidays and other special events, aquatic exercise programs and individual sports activities.



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