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ERIC Number: ED535369
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 68
Abstractor: ERIC
The Growing Imbalance: Recent Trends in U.S. Postsecondary Education Finance. A Report of the Delta Cost Project
Wellman, Jane V.; Desrochers, Donna M.; Lenihan, Colleen M.
Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability
Despite clear evidence that college tuitions are rising (the only incontrovertible fact in this conversation), the policy debate about college costs is remarkably poorly informed by data about college spending patterns, revenue availability, and the relation between spending and tuition increases. The last national study of trends in college finance used data from 1995-1996 for private institutions, and from 1998-1999 for the public sector. A good deal has changed since then in enrollment patterns, demographics and sources of revenue for higher education. To be sure, better data alone will not resolve policy tensions about higher education finance, but improved data can at least focus the debate by seeking answers to basic empirical questions, such as: (1) Are college tuitions rising because spending is growing? If so, where is the money going?; (2) Is there any evidence of cost cutting? If so, are tuitions being held down as a result?; (3) What is the relation between revenue source and spending? Have increased private revenues reduced pressure on growing college tuitions? Will increased spending from endowments mitigate future tuition increases?; (4) Are low-income students losing access to higher education as a result of tuition increases?; (5) Can institutions increase productivity as a way to lower costs and, ultimately, tuitions?; and (6) What should public policy makers do to address the college cost problem? This paper has been prepared to help address these key issues, through a presentation of new data about trends in college and university spending and revenues, and a discussion of how spending and revenues interact with enrollments and degree completions. Designed to be as nontechnical as possible, this report presents aggregate data about trends in higher education finance for public and private nonprofit institutions between 1987 and 2005, with a particular focus on patterns since 1998 when the last reports about college spending were produced. Technical appendix and data appendix are included. (Contains 32 figures and 23 footnotes.) [Funding for this paper was provided by Making Opportunity Affordable, an initiative of Lumina Foundation for Education.]
Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability. Available from: Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research. 1000 Thomas Jefferson Street NW, Washington, DC 20007. Tel: 202-403-5410; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Two Year Colleges
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity and Accountability