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.
While overall, respondents reported a 19.2% increase to operating expenses from 2018 to 2019, college respondents actually reported a 2.7% decrease, from an average of $2,230,000 in 2018 to $2,170,000 in 2019. Looking forward, they were expecting revenues to increase at a similar pace to all respondents. While the general survey population was anticipating a 5.5% increase from 2019 to 2021, college respondents projected a 5.1% increase, to an average operating expenditure of $2,280,000 in 2021.
On average, college respondents report that they recover 46.7% of their operating costs via revenues, up significantly from 34.5% in 2019. College respondents were more than twice as likely as non-college respondents to report that they cover 10% or less of their cost via revenues: 19.7% of college respondents vs. 9.5% of non-college respondents. Some 38.5% of college respondents said they make up 30% or less of their operating costs with revenues. Another 12.3% recover 31 to 70% of their costs via revenues. And around three in 10 (30.3%) college respondents said they recover at least 71% of their operating costs via revenues.
College respondents were slightly less likely than non-college respondents to report that they've taken action to reduce their operating expenses, though a majority had done so. Some 76.9% of college respondents said they had taken such actions, compared with 81.7% of non-college respondents. This is down from 2019, when 79.1% of college respondents said they had taken such actions.
The most common strategies relied on by college respondents to reduce their operating costs in the 2020 Industry Report Survey include: reducing staff (38% of college respondents had taken this action, compared with 31.1% in 2019); improving energy efficiency (34.7%, down from 43.9% in 2019); cutting programs or services (33.9%); reducing hours of operation (33.1%); and increasing fees (28.9%).
College respondents were more likely to report that they had seen a decrease in the number of people using their facility in 2019. Some 13.7% said that the number of people using their facility was down in 2019 from 2018. Around half (50.8%) said there had been no change, and 35.5% said the number of people using their facilities had increased. (See Figure 48.)
Looking forward, the percentage of college respondents expecting usage to decline falls slightly, with 6.7% expecting a decrease in 2020 and 3.6% anticipating a decrease in 2021. Most college respondents were expecting to see no change in the number of people using their facility in 2020 (54.2%) or 2021 (56.8%), while around four in 10 were expecting to see an increase in 2020 and 2021.
While the number of overall respondents to the Industry Report Survey who said they have plans for construction has grown over the past decade, for college respondents, those numbers have not increased at the same clip. In fact, in 2020, 52.4% of college respondents said they had plans for construction, down from 58% in 2019. This compared with 75.1% of non-college respondents who said they had plans for construction in 2020.
There were decreases in the number of college respondents with plans for every type of construction. Those with construction plans were most likely to be planning renovations to their existing facilities. Some 40.3% said they had plans for renovations (down from 46.7% in 2019). Another 17.7% were planning additions, and 16.9% had plans to build new facilities. (See Figure 49.)
The amount that college respondents said they would be spending on their construction plans was up 19.3% in 2020, though the budget for 2019 was down significantly from the previous year. College respondents in 2020 were planning to spend $9,020,000 on their construction, compared with $7,560,000 in 2019, and $9,500,000 in 2018. As is generally the case, college respondents have the highest construction budgets, planning to spend 60.2% more than the average for all respondents.
There was little change in the past year in the features most commonly found among college respondents' facilities. The 10 features that are most common among colleges and universities include: fitness centers; locker rooms; indoor sports courts for sports like basketball and volleyball; exercise studio rooms; classrooms and meeting rooms; bleachers and seating; outdoor sports courts for sports like tennis and basketball; indoor walking and running tracks; Wi-Fi services; and natural turf sports fields.
College respondents were somewhat less likely than others to report that they had plans to add features at their facilities over the next three years. While 44.5% of non-college respondents said they had such plans, just 32.3% of college respondents said they would be adding features, down from 33.3% in 2019 and 36.5% in 2018.
The most commonly planned additions for college respondents in 2020 include:
- Synthetic turf sports fields (planned by 30% of college respondents with plans to add any features)
- Outdoor sports courts (17.5%)
- Bleachers and seating (17.5%)
- Natural turf sports fields (17.5%)
- Exercise studio rooms (17.5%)
- Indoor running and walking tracks (17.5%)
- Fitness trails and outdoor fitness equipment (15%)
- Locker rooms (15%)
- Indoor sports courts (15%)
- Climbing walls (12.5%)
Synthetic turf sports fields continue to hold the top position among planned features, with an increase in the number of college respondents who plan to add them, from 26% in 2019. There was also an increase in the percentage of college respondents who said they were planning to add outdoor sports courts, bleachers and seating, natural turf fields, exercise studio rooms, indoor tracks and locker rooms. Indoor sports courts and climbing walls were not among the top 10 planned additions in 2019. They replace fitness centers and outdoor aquatic facilities.
A majority of college respondents (96%) said they offer programming of some kind at their facilities, down from 99.3% in 2018. This compares with 97% of non-college respondents who said they provide programming in 2020. Fitness programs continue to be the most commonly offered type of program among college respondents. Some 80.6% of college respondents said they provide fitness programs, down from 91.2% in 2019.
Other programs commonly found among college respondents' facilities include: group exercise programs (78.2% of college respondents feature group exercise); mind-body balance programs like yoga and tai chi (76.6%); educational programs (62.1%); adult sports teams (54.8%); functional fitness programs (55.6%); personal training (51.6%); tournaments and races (50.8%); individual sports activities like running clubs or swim clubs (50.8%); and swimming programs (44.4%).
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. Some 29.8% of college respondents said they were planning to add programs (up from 24.7% in 2019), compared with 35.7% of non-college respondents.
The top 10 planned programs for college respondents include:
- Nutrition and diet counseling programs (up from No. 3)
- Functional fitness programs (down from No. 1)
- Fitness programs (up from No. 6)
- Group exercise programs (up from No. 5)
- Day camps and summer camps (down from No. 2)
- Sport tournaments and races (up from No. 9)
- Educational programs (no change)
- Individual sports activities like running clubs (did not appear in 2019)
- Sport training such as golf or tennis lessons (up from No. 10)
- Climbing programs (did not appear in 2019)
New to the list in 2020 are individual sports activities and climbing programs. These programs replace adult sports teams and personal training. RM
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