Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013

By Betsy Prueter

The College Board recently released a report examining college and university finances from 2003-2013.  Trends in College Spending analyzes how institutions collect and spend money as well as the outcomes of those financial decisions. The report found that the higher education economy showed signs of recovery in 2013, with spending increases in all sectors. The report also points out that while spending and revenue were up, per student funding levels were well below levels achieved in earlier decades.

Other primary findings are summarized below:

  • Spending increased in all sectors over the last year (from 2012-2013), indicating that institutions have recovered from the 2008 recession.
  • State divestment slowed in 2013; appropriations per FTE increased at community colleges by 5% and at public four-year institutions by 1%.
    • Still, funding remains between 20 and 30% lower, at all types of institutions, than it was in 2008.
  • Students and families are still financing a majority of education-related spending at public and private four-year institutions (50% to 62% on average). No additional operating cost burdens were placed on students, but the lack of an increase or a decrease does not offset the increasing cost shift to students and families that has occurred over the last five years across all sectors (approximately 10%).
  • While degree production had been increasing since 2008, it reached a decade high level in 2013.
    • This was particularly true at public institutions, producing three more credentials per 100 FTE than a decade before.
    • Community colleges had the largest boost in degree productivity, adding seven more credentials per 100 FTE than in 2003.