Higher Education Finance

Overview

Higher Education Finance

Higher education is not just big business: It is huge business. If you add up all the revenues colleges get – tuition, government subsidies, ancillary operations, etc. – higher education took in nearly $500 billion in 2009-10, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. But despite the magnitude of money that flows into colleges and universities, these institutions have faced considerable financial pressure in recent years as states have cut funding for higher education.

Higher education is not just big business: It is huge business. If you add up all the revenues colleges get – tuition, government subsidies, ancillary operations, etc. – higher education took in nearly $500 billion in 2009-10, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education. But despite the magnitude of money that flows into colleges and universities, these institutions have faced considerable financial pressure in recent years as states have cut funding for higher education.

This budget crunch has hit precisely when there is more pressure from students and families to make college more affordable, more pressure from employers and policymakers to produce more people who have degrees, and more pressure from critics who want colleges to do a better job of actually educating students. These elements combine to make the financial side of higher education fertile ground for a variety of stories. This Topics section examines how to assess how colleges earn and spend money, and how those practices might affect students.

Where Do Colleges Get Their Money?  

Colleges get their money from four main sources:

  1. Tuition and fees: Nearly every college gets at least some money from students. (Some schools call tuition “fees.”) The exceptions are the handful of tuition-free schools such as Cooper Union. Students paid more than $134 billion in tuition and fees in 2009-10, according to IPEDs data.  When looking at individual schools, remember to distinguish between sticker prices for tuition and net prices – what students actually pay after scholarships and other discounts. Ask colleges about their “net tuition revenue.” Private colleges, for example, have been raising sticker prices steadily but also giving out so much financial aid that they actually have been only eking out very small increases in their net tuition revenue. That said, many colleges have stated that one of their institutional goals is the “maximize net tuition revenue.”
  2. Taxpayers: Virtually every school receives taxpayer money in one form or another:

    a) Public colleges and universities receive direct cash subsidies from their states and communities. The federal government handed out more than $32 billion in grants to colleges in 2009-10, according to the IPEDS data. Grapevine’s research shows that states spent $72.5 billion supporting public colleges and universities in the 2012 fiscal year. That’s down from $75 billion in the 2011 fiscal year. That decline in state funding has been a major reason for tuition increases.

    b) Private nonprofit colleges receive tax subsidies in the form of tax breaks for their donors and their tax-exempt status. (Public and nonprofit colleges do not have to pay local property taxes, for example, which has been a subject of controversy in many budget-strapped cities because the colleges make use of public services that the other taxpayers fund.) In addition, the majority of private college students pay at least some of their tuition bills with federal or state grant or loan dollars that are funded by taxpayers. Finally, private universities with professors who get government research grants get to keep a hefty percentage of the research grant for overhead. It is not unusual for a college to require a professor to give more than 50 percent of the grant to the administration for overhead. (One potential source for information on overhead is the National Council of University Research Administrators.)

    c) For-profit colleges receive almost all of their money from taxpayers, one way or the other. The vast majority of students at the University of Phoenix, DeVry, etc., pay their tuition bills with federal Pell grants, federal student loans, state grants and GI bill money. These schools are so reliant on government funding, in fact, that they have fought a proposal to close a loophole that excludes GI bill money from a federal regulation that requires colleges to get at least 10 percent of their revenues from a non-federal source (i.e., the students’ own pockets.) If the GI bill was counted toward this “90/10” rule (i.e. no more than 90 percent of the college’s revenue can come from taxpayers) many colleges would be in violation. The proposed revision had not been enacted as of this publication in June 2012.
  3. Donors: All colleges love donations, but most colleges get so little that it doesn’t make much of an impact on their budget. A few hundred famous and elite colleges, however, have raised so much money that they have built up big endowments. For schools like Harvard and Yale, taking a standard 5 percent or so from their endowment funds a large percentage of their operating expenses. The National Association of College and University Business Officers regularly issues reports on these endowments, and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education is an organization of college fundraisers.
  4. Ancillary services: A growing number of colleges are turning standard services, such as dorms and parking lots, into money-makers for the college, or launching new money-making enterprises. The variety of these operations is extensive. While not every college turns every ancillary service into a profit center, here are some examples of what is typically done:

    a) Licensing: Colleges earn extra money by licensing their logos and names for T-shirts, sweatshirts, etc.

    b) Campus services: The administration often takes a percentage of the profit from campus bookstores, cafeterias, housing departments, parking lots, etc. General sources for information on this include the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International and the National Association of College Stores.

    c)  Banking: Some colleges have signed deals with banks to share in the fees charged by cash cards issued by the financial aid office, for example.

    d) Patents: Some colleges demand shares in professors’ inventions or businesses. Here’s a story about one dispute over this that made it to the Supreme Court:

    e) Sports: According to the NCAA, a few dozen colleges actually make money on the ticket sales and other revenues from their sports teams.

Where Does Colleges’ Money Go?

There are four major activities that account for the bulk of a college’s expenses:

  1. Education, a.k.a. Instruction: Only about 27 percent of a public college’s total budget is spent on the cost of putting teachers in classroom, according to the Department of Education. (Expenditure breakdowns for public colleges can be found here and expenditures for private colleges can be found here.) These costs have been rising slower than other college budget lines in part because colleges have been replacing tenured professors with low-paid adjuncts, according to research from the Delta Cost Project.
  2. Administration, building maintenance, etc. typically eat up another 15 percent of a college’s spending. Delta’s analysis indicates these costs have been rising sharply.
  3. Student and academic support (such as counseling, libraries, and financial aid offices) typically account for another 12 percent of universities’ budgets. But these services account for about 17 percent of costs at private universities and have been growing quickly.
  4. Research, public service and similar activities average about 13 percent of college budgets.

What Are We Getting For This Money?

As the costs to earn a college degree have risen in recent years, more experts and policymakers have been investigating what those degrees actually are worth to individuals and the nation. For degree holders, the value of a college credential generally – though not universally – has been found to be high, according to research from the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, Payscale.com earnings data, and the College Board’s Education Pays reports. As a nation, better-educated populations have been connected to stronger economic growth, and many colleges argue that they are incubators for economic growth.

But as detailed earlier, educating college students has been an expensive enterprise, and the economic climate has squeezed many universities’ budgets. Thus, many of the questions currently central to higher education finance focus how the budget crunches many colleges are facing have affected student access. Community colleges say budget cuts are forcing them to turn students away in some cases. Many public universities say budget cuts are forcing them to reduce the number of in-state students and admit more higher-paying out-of-state students. At least one private college has confirmed that financial concerns have forced it to take students’ wealth into admissions consideration.

Many experts also have started to question the effect that the finances of colleges and universities might be have on the quality of the education they provide. Budget cuts have caused some colleges to pack more students into each classroom, which many studies say reduces learning. Colleges also have replaced tenured professors with less expensive adjuncts, which can affect the quality of teaching. — Kim Clark, June 2012

Key Coverage

Highlighted journalism and reports for this topic

  • Obama’s Budget Proposal Would Change Student Loan Interest Rates, Boost Science Spending

    April 11, 2013

    In his annual budget request on Wednesday, President Obama proposed a major change to student loan interest rates that would save students money in the short term but eventually make loans more costly for borrowers. (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • Student Loan Rate Set to Rise, Despite Lack of Support

    April 8, 2013

    The interest rate on many student loans is scheduled to double on July 1, to 6.8 percent from 3.4 percent — just as it was last year, when in the midst of an election campaign, Congress voted to extend the lower rate. (The New York Times)

    Read More »
  • A Truly Devastating Graph on State Higher Education Spending

    March 20, 2013

    A chart from the Center On Budget and Policy Priorities estimates how much each of the 50 states has slashed per-student funding for its university systems since the start of the recession, adjusted for inflation. (The Atlantic)

    Read More »
  • What’s the Payoff for the ‘Country Club’ College?

    January 28, 2013

    A new paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research analyzes the “college as country club” and the pressure on institutions to cater to students’ desire for “consumption amenities.” (Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • State Spending on Higher Education Rebounds in Most States After Years of Decline

    January 21, 2013

    After falling nearly 11 percent since the 2008 fiscal year, state appropriations for higher education are on the rise in most states. But the long-term effects of budget cuts stemming from the economic downturn still could take years to erase, according to an annual survey.

    Read More »
  • For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

    December 22, 2012

    The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

    Thirty years ago, there was a 31 percentage point difference between the share of prosperous and poor Americans who earned bachelor’s degrees, according to Martha J. Bailey and Susan M. Dynarski of the University of Michigan. Now the gap is 45 points. (The New York Times) 

    Read More »
  • 13th Grade: Older, Returning Students Strain Florida’s Community and State Colleges

    December 17, 2012

    There are a lot of people in Florida going through what Pepper Harth is going through. Remedial classes in math, reading and writing are seeing a surge of students at Florida’s 28 community and state colleges — schools where all students are welcome as long as they have a high school diploma or G.E.D. From 2004 to 2011, Florida’s remedial education costs for both students and schools ballooned from $118 million to $168 million. (State Impact Florida) 

    Read More »
  • Student-Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards

    November 27, 2012

    Of the $956 billion in student-loan debt outstanding as of September, 11 percent was delinquent — up from less than 9 percent in the second quarter, and higher than the 10.5 percent of credit-card debt, which was delinquent in the third quarter. By comparison, delinquency rates on mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and auto loans stood at 5.9 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively as of September. (CNBC) 

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  • More Community College Students Commuting to Multiple Campuses

    October 16, 2012

    She is part of a growing number of community college students statewide who have been forced to travel long distances by bus, car and train to get the classes they need after budget cuts resulted in course reductions systemwide.(Los Angeles Times) 

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  • No Income? No Problem! How the Gov’t Is Saddling Parents with College Loans They Can’t Afford

    October 4, 2012

    A joint examination by ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that Plus loans can sometimes hurt the very families they are intended to help: The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who’ve overreached. When a parent applies for a Plus loan, the government checks credit history, but it doesn’t assess whether the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. It doesn’t check income. It doesn’t check employment status. It doesn’t check how much other debt — like a mortgage, or other student-loan debt — the borrower is already on the hook for. (ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education) 

    Read More »
  • Too High a Price?

    October 1, 2012

    Grinnell’s discussions follow closely on the heels of an announcement this summer by Wesleyan University that it was moving away from need-blind admissions, saying that if the college could not generate enough money to cover financial aid, it would consider students’ financial need in some of its decisions (possibly 10 percent of the class). The move has generated backlash among students, alumni and others at the university. Grinnell administrators said a policy like Wesleyan’s is on the table.

     

    Read More »
  • A Disruption Grows Up?

    October 1, 2012

    Competency-based education could be a game-changer for adult students, probably more so than MOOCs. Yet despite the backing of powerful supporters, colleges have been reluctant to go all-in because they are unsure whether accreditors and the federal government will give the nod to degree programs that look nothing like the traditional college model.

    The logjam may be breaking, however. Southern New Hampshire University is poised to launch a $5,000 online, competency-based associate degree that would be the first to blow up the credit hour — the connection between college credit and the time students spend learning. A regional accreditor has signed off on Southern New Hampshire’s “direct assessment” method, and the university will soon apply for federal approval. (Inside Higher Ed) 

     

     

    Read More »
  • Democratic Party Platform Highlights Obama Higher Education, Student Loan Reforms

    September 5, 2012

    The party platform promotes the reform of the federal student loan program, the increased funding to Pell Grants and the new income based repayment option for federal loans. It’s a stark contrast to the Republican platform, which called for a roll back of the student loan reform to funnel money back through private banks. (The Huffington Post)

    Read More »
  • Obama, GOP duel over rising college expenses

    September 1, 2012

    WASHINGTON – President Obama would make tax credits for college expenses permanent and expand Pell grants for students from lower-earning families. The Republican team of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would emphasize the need to curb rising tuitions and federal education spending that are burdening families and the government. (USA Today)

    Read More »
  • Parking Pros: UT Far Exceeds City in Tickets Issued, Revenue Returned

    August 19, 2012

    Each year, UT’s parking department issues twice as many tickets as the city where it is, and it compels nine out of 10 violators to pay the fine. That adds up to about $1.2 million in revenue each year.

    University parking data examined by the News Sentinel reveals those details and other glimpses into the habits of thousands of campus drivers and the sweeping organization keeping them in check.

    What time of day are drivers most likely to get a ticket? Watch where you park between 10 and 11 in the morning.

    Where? Don’t be tempted by that inviting staff lot next to the stadium.

    And what about the month, the weather and the days of the week? (Knoxville News Sentinel)

    Read More »
  • Teacher’s Wages Garnished as U.S. Goes After Loan Default

    July 2, 2012

    Lawyers drained Linda Brice’s bank account and seized a quarter of her take-home pay, or more than $900 a month. Brice, a first-grade teacher and Coast Guard veteran, begged for mercy, saying she couldn’t afford food, gas or utilities.

    Brice’s transgression: she defaulted on $3,100 she had borrowed more than 30 years ago to pay for college. The chief federal judge in Los Angeles took her side, ruling that Brice should pay only $25 a month. The law firm of Goldsmith & Hull — representing the federal government — then withdrew $2,496 from her bank account. (Bloomberg News) 

    Read More »
  • Budget Disparity Growing Among NCAA Division 1 Schools

    May 15, 2012

    While most higher education reporters tend to steer clear of the sports side of universities, there can be compelling finance stories in this part of campus life. “Major-college athletics departments increased the amount of money they generate by nearly $190 million in 2011, but they increased their spending by more than $267 million,” this article reports. So, how do colleges cover that difference in costs? (USA Today)

    Read More »
  • Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans

    May 15, 2012

    How’s this for a startling opening sentence: “Joshua Mandelman made $454,000 in a single year as a student-loan debt collector — more than twice the pay of the U.S. secretary of education.” The article offers a revealing look at “guaranty agencies,” a little-covered part of the higher education beat that can contribute significantly to costs. (Bloomberg)

    Read More »
  • Football Fails Profit Test as Students Pay $1,000

    May 3, 2012

    Rutgers adds $1,000 in fees to student bills to cover costs of football program. “Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.” The site also posts the list for these schools. (Bloomberg)

    Read More »
  • Out of Uniform: At Half a Million and Counting, Veterans Cash In on Post-9/11 GI Bill

    March 8, 2012

    At this moment, a new migration is under way from the military to the college campus. More than half a million veterans who served after September 11, 2001, were enrolled in college classes last year under the Post-9/11 GI Bill. Thousands more are expected in the coming years as roughly two million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan return home. Though their passage through the college gates might not have the same sweeping effect it did on the post-World War II generation, optimism is running strong that the successful transition of today’s veterans to higher education—and gainful employment beyond—might be a balm for a nation nervous about its economic future. (CHE) 

    Read More »
  • Federal Regulations Are Not Making College More Expensive

    February 15, 2012

    Higher education expert Kevin Carey attempts to debunk a belief often touted by policymakers, administrators and critics. He concludes that “The worst thing about this whole conversation is that that there’s a much stronger argument to be made that rising college prices are a function of too little federal regulation, not too much.”  (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Executive Compensation at Private Colleges

    December 5, 2011

    Each year, The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes lists based on its analyses of how much the presidents of public and private colleges are paid. The list for public colleges also is accessible through this link. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • 180 Private Colleges Fail Education Dept.’s Latest Financial Responsibility Test

    October 12, 2011

    Every couple of years, the federal government issues an analysis of the financial strength of colleges. “Financial-responsibility scores, which are derived from the audited financial statements that colleges submit annually to the department, are supposed to offer a broad measure of colleges’ financial health. By placing restrictions on failing programs, the department seeks to protect students and taxpayers from colleges at risk of financial collapse.” (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • Maintenance Over Management: A Survey of Business Officers

    June 6, 2011

    This survey of important campus administrators including business officers and admissions officers reveals some interesting trends. “[A]bout 60 percent of all respondents to the survey disagreed or strongly disagreed that “my institution can make additional and significant budget cuts without hurting quality.” (Inside Higher Ed)

    Read More »
  • Lost in Translation

    May 23, 2011

    EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. Unscrupulous Chinese firms promise families and college- bound students from the mainland admission to prestigious American universities provided they pay large fees. What they get in return varies, with worst-case scenarios including living miles from the U.S. campus and thousands of dollars of unforeseen bills. Yet because of U.S. colleges’ appetite for the tuition foreign students pay, fixing the problem isn’t easy. (Bloomberg News)

    Read More »
  • Many For-Profit Colleges Are ‘Managing Defaults’ to Mask Problems, Analysis Indicates

    March 13, 2011

    “The 3-year default rates on student loans are 5 times as high as the 2-years rates at some colleges,” according to this research. (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • The Business of Higher Education

    February 11, 2011

    EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. The relationships between pharmaceutical companies and academe, the aggressive enrollment tactics at for-profit schools, and applied science competitions to beef up New York City’s tech prowess are just some of the topics covered in this multi-article series on the apparent and hidden costs of running a university.  (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

    Read More »
  • The Best Class Money Can Buy

    November 2005

    “Over the past twenty years, often under cover of the euphemisms with which the industry abounds, enrollment management has transformed admissions and financial aid, and in some cases the entire mission of a college or a university,” notes this classic analysis of a key part of the business of universities. “Borrowing the most sophisticated techniques of business strategy, enrollment managers have installed market-driven competition at the heart of the university.” (The Atlantic)

    Read More »

Reports & Data

Notable research on this topic

  • Federal Student Loan Debt Burden of Noncompleters

    April 9, 2013

    This report focuses on the median federal student debt burden accrued by students who do not complete a postsecondary credential within 6 years of enrolling. (National Center for Education Statistics)

    Read More »
  • State Higher Education Finance 2012

    March 6, 2013

    State and local government financial commitment to higher education has increased substantially over the past twenty-five years. In 1987, state and local governments combined provided $33.3 billion in direct support for general operating expenses of public and independent higher education institutions. This investment increased to $50.3 billion in 1997, $82.7 billion in 2007, and $88.8 billion by 2008 (the high point in national aggregate funding). A recession beginning in 2008 dramatically reduced state revenue and ended the growth in state and local support
    achieved between 2004 and 2008. (SHEEO)

    Read More »
  • Student Debt and the Class of 2011

    October 18, 2012

    We estimate that two-thirds (66%) of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 for those with loans. The five percent increase in average debt at the national level is similar to the average annual increase over the past few years. Also similar to previous years, about one-fifth of graduates’ debt is comprised of private loans. (The Institute for College Access & Success)

    Read More »
  • Debt, Jobs, Diversity and Who Gets In: A Survey of Admissions Directors

    October 3, 2012

    At a time of increasing national concern about debt levels of college students, a plurality of college admissions directors in a new survey by Inside Higher Ed indicated that current average loan volume for undergraduates is reasonable — and 22 percent of all admissions directors and 28 percent of those at private colleges would be comfortable with the average student debt being even higher than it is now. (Inside Higher Ed) 

     

     

    Read More »
  • National Center for Higher Education Management Systems

    Ongoing

    NCHEMS (pronounced “ennchems”) posts state-by-state numbers for revenues, cost per degree, etc.

    Read More »
  • International Comparative Higher Education and Finance Project

    Ongoing

    Through this data project, University of Buffalo researchers are documenting the global shift of the financial burden for college from taxpayers to students.

    Read More »
  • Grapevine

    Ongoing

    Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers jointly produce this compilation of state taxpayer support (i.e. subsidies or revenues) for educational systems.

    Read More »
  • National Association of College and University Business Officers

    Annual

    NACUBO publishes an annual survey of that year’s estimated “discount” on sticker price by private colleges that allows you to estimate net prices that families actually pay out of pocket. In conjunction with the Common Fund, NACUBO also publishes an annual estimate of the gain and level of every college’s endowment.

    Read More »
  • Trends in Pricing

    Annual

    The yearly report from the College Board, usually issued each October, is considered one of the most up-to-date summaries of average college net and sticker prices. Be aware, however, that there seems to be a disconnect between the net price numbers and trends published by the federal government and the numbers and trends published by the College Board. So be sure to check both because they sometimes diverge and will lead to opposite conclusions.

    Read More »
  • USA Today Sports’ College Athletics Finances

    Ongoing

    USA Today posts a compilation of NCAA Division 1 college sports budgets for public universities.

    Read More »
  • Executive Compensation

    Ongoing

    The Chronicle of Higher Education collects and publishes data on the compensation of private college presidents and public college presidents. Access to these databases does require a subscription to the site.

    Read More »
  • Guidestar

    Ongoing

    Guidestar offers a free, online repository of all nonprofit institutions’ (including private, non-profit colleges’) tax forms, including the often informative 990, which includes executive compensation, spending on fundraising, grants to non-citizens and other interesting data. The site offers access for free, but registration is required.

    Read More »
  • Delta Cost Project

    Ongoing

    The Delta Cost Project at the American Institutes for Research has become of the main go-to sources for data on how colleges spend their money.

    Read More »
  • National Center for Education Statistics

    Ongoing

    U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is considered the definitive source of education statistics. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS allows you to, for example, discover and compare what colleges spend on instructors administration, research, financial aid, or find the trend data for one particular college. IPEDS also enables you to, for example, compare all colleges’ sticker prices, say, or find the trend data for one particular college.

    For more specific data on financial aid, check the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, which is a definitive quadrennial study of financial aid trends. The last year studied was 2011-12, but that data was unavailable as of spring 2012.

    The NCES Navigator allows you to quickly and easily look at most of the most important price numbers for a specified college – sticker price and net prices for various income levels over the last several years.

    And Chapter 3 of the Digest of Education Statistics has most of the most important general statistics on price and aid.

    Read More »

Five Questions to Ask

  1. What are you defining as costs and expenses? Make sure you get your editor and your sources to define exactly what they mean when they talk about college “costs” or “expenses.” While some people use the word “cost” to mean the price students pay, others mean the amount the college actually spends on each student, which is often much higher than tuition. (Yale says their cost of educating a student is double tuition, for example.) Colleges quote many different “costs.” For example, cost of instruction is typically lower than a college’s total expenditures, which includes other expenses such as counseling, sports, and research.
  2. What do you mean by price? Make sure you get your editor and your sources to define exactly what they mean when they talk about a college’s “price.” Each college has at least 2 kinds of prices: “sticker” (i.e. published) price, and “net” price, or the price a student pays after grants and scholarships (not loans or work-study) are subtracted. Only about half of all college students pay full sticker price. And the National Association of College and University Business Officers says less than 20 percent of private college students pay those schools’ sticker prices.

    Make sure you know the components of whatever price you use. Some people think price is just tuition, or just tuition and fees, or just “direct costs,” which are generally viewed as tuition, fees, room and board. Some schools quote an “out-of-pocket” price, which is s sticker price minus grants and loans.

    If you want to quote total cost, and you’re having trouble finding it, remind the schools that federal law requires colleges to “make readily available to current and prospective students” a full cost of attendance that includes tuition, fees, room, board, books, travel and a budget for miscellaneous items. (See 34 CFR 668.43.  Unfortunately, the law does not say when, where or how…) If you’re writing a student loan story, try to include an Annual Percentage Rate, not just the interest rate. All consumer loans – except for federal educational loans – are required to add fees and interest rates together to give consumers their true costs. If you’re writing about PLUS loans, use a web APR calculator to add in the 4 percentage point fees to let students and parents know how much that loan is really going to cost them.
  3. Price for whom? Most public research universities (though very few private colleges) now charge “differential tuition” or extra fees for some courses, so that some students pay more than the standard published tuition. (See research by Glen Nelson, currently senior vice president of finance and administration for the Arizona Board of Regents.) At Penn State, for example, upperclassmen pay a higher tuition rate. Many other colleges charge higher tuition for science classes. Some even add extra fees to journalism courses!
  4. Compared to what? You can add more value to your readers if you put higher ed finance information into context. The College Board’s “Trends in Pricing” reports, for example, generally give you the option of looking at prices after subtracting inflation out. “Measuring Up” analyses, for example, very helpfully rate each state’s average public university in-state tuition as a percentage of that state’s median income, which give a good gauge of affordability. News stories about student debt load would be improved by putting debt payments into context. This op-ed by Mark Kantrowitz and Lynn O’Shaughnessy noted that the spring 2012 debate over a possible increase in the Stafford loan interest rates would amount to about $6/month per student. (And it also put the debate into a larger context of budget cuts to financial aid.)
  5. Is that an expense or an investment? As college costs and prices rise, more colleges and economists are focusing on what students and taxpayers are getting for their money. Many colleges have issued reports showing how their activities – such as sports events or research – pay off in the long run because they generate economic development and tax revenues. The Delta Project calculates a cost per graduate for colleges  Collegemeasures.com has looked at the costs and payoffs for degrees at community colleges. Payscale.com publishes its estimate of the return on investment for several hundred colleges. Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has recently published analyses showing which degrees return higher incomes to graduates.http://advocacy.collegeboard.org/

Organizations

The Association of College and University Housing Officers – International is the professional organization for employees who manage dormitories and other housing options for colleges. ACUHO-I can be a helpful source for information on the ways colleges might use housing to increase their revenues.

The College Board publishes annual reports on college tuition pricing and student financial aid that are essential resources for reporters writing articles that deal with the business side of colleges and universities.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) is the leading professional organization for those who specialize in helping colleges raise funds through donations.

The Delta Cost Project is a research organization that examines how colleges and universities collect and spend the revenues upon which they depend. Their research can be critical to most articles that deal with the financial aspects of colleges.

The National Association of College and University Business Officers is the primary professional organization for those higher education administrators who deal the financial aspects of operating a college. NACUBO produces a number of reports each year that can be helpful to reporters.

The National Association of College Stores can be useful on questions of whether campus bookstores generate profits for universities and other ways these businesses affect a college.

The National Council of University Research Administrators deals with the financial side of how colleges and universities manage the research grants that can be a critical component of the institution’s revenue.

The State Higher Education Executive Officers organization surveys its members on a regular basis regarding various financial trends in higher education. These SHEEO reports can be the foundation for a variety of higher ed finance stories.

Suggest a Change

If you’d like to suggest an addition or change to this section, send an email to EWA Project Director Kenneth Terrell.

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Millions of U.S. parents have taken out loans from the government to help their children pay for college. Now a crushing bill is coming due. Hundreds of thousands have tumbled into delinquency and default. In the process, many have delayed retirement, put off health expenses and lost portions of Social Security checks and tax refunds to their lender, the federal government.

Latest News

New York State Reaches Deal to Provide Free Tuition for SUNY and CUNY Students

In what proponents are calling a historic move, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders announced a deal that will make tuition free at the City University of New York and State University of New York Systems — for both community colleges and four-year colleges and universities — for families with annual incomes up to $125,000. The plan will be phased in over three years, starting this fall with new enrollees from families with incomes up to $100,000.

Latest News

Placement Rates, Other Data Colleges Provide Consumers Are Often Alternative Facts

At a time of alternative facts, much of the information students get when choosing colleges — which they’ll be doing soon, as acceptance letters show up in their mailboxes — is sometimes inaccurate, almost never independently corroborated and often intended to put the best face on the universities’ performance with carefully chosen wording.

EWA Radio

Go West, Young Students: California’s Free Community College Boom
EWA Radio: Episode 114

Ashley Smith of Inside Higher Ed discusses why the Golden State is leading the nation in free community college initiatives. Currently, a quarter of all such programs nationally are located at California institutions. The growth is a mix of grassroots efforts by individual campuses, cities, and community organizations. At the same time, California’s Democratic lawmakers are pushing for a statewide effort to add even more free seats at two-year colleges.

Latest News

Student Loan Defaults Hit a New Record In 2016

The number of defaulted federal student loans hit a new high in 2016: about 8 million borrowers have given up paying on more than $137 billion in education debts.

That means at least one out of every six people who have any federal student debt haven’t made a payment on their loans for at least nine months, says Jessica Thompson, research director for The Institute for College Access and Success.

In fact, 1.1 million student borrowers defaulted for the first time in 2016, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education on Friday.

Latest News

Student Loan Defaults Hit a New Record In 2016

The number of defaulted federal student loans hit a new high in 2016: about 8 million borrowers have given up paying on more than $137 billion in education debts.

That means at least one out of every six people who have any federal student debt haven’t made a payment on their loans for at least nine months, says Jessica Thompson, research director for The Institute for College Access and Success.

In fact, 1.1 million student borrowers defaulted for the first time in 2016, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Education on Friday.

Latest News

Ohio State Shields Access to Records Others Deem Public

Officials from the state’s flagship public university routinely talk about a commitment to transparency, yet Ohio State University has a track record of interpreting the state public-records laws in ways that shield some vital information from public scrutiny.

Records explaining how the university spends or invests public money, protects students from criminals on campus, prescribes painkillers to athletes and evaluates the job performance of its president are a few examples of documents that OSU has deemed private, a Dispatch analysis has found.

Latest News

Nearly 4 in 10 Universities Report Drops in International Student Applications

Nearly 40 percent of U.S. colleges are seeing declines in applications from international students, and international student recruitment professionals report “a great deal of concern” from students and their families about visas and perceptions of a less welcoming climate in the U.S., according to a survey conducted in February by six higher education groups.

Latest News

Shutdown of IRS Data Tool Affects Income-driven Repayment, Creates Further Discrepancies

After federal officials announced last week that the Internal Revenue Service data retrieval tool would be unavailable for “several weeks” because of concerns about security, college access advocates and financial aid administrations said repercussions would be go beyond a more burdensome financial aid application process.

Latest News

Revised Travel Ban Excludes Current Visa Holders but Continues to Raise Concerns For Higher Education

President Trump on Monday signed a new executive order temporarily barring nationals of six Muslim-majority countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen — from entering the U.S. after enforcement of an earlier entry ban was halted by federal courts. The revised ban, which goes into effect March 16, does not apply to lawful permanent residents of the U.S. and individuals from the six nations who already have valid visas, including student and exchange visas.

Latest News

As State Budget Revenues Fall Short, Higher Education Faces A Squeeze

Eric Greitens had barely been Missouri’s governor for a week when he faced a pretty tough decision: cutting the Show Me State’s budget.

The state didn’t get as much revenue as expected, prompting the Republican governor to cut $68 million in core funding to colleges, universities and community colleges for the current budget year. That amounts to about 8 percent of the general revenue that goes to colleges and community colleges.

And he’s proposing additional cuts for next year’s budget, which takes effect in July.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Would Free College Lead to Too Many Graduates?

The presidential election pushed grassroots proposals to make public college free into the mainstream. But should these plans stay there? And if so, in what form, now that the most prominent supporters of those proposals lost the race for the White House?

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

State Funding for Higher Education Up 3.4 Percent

A new report finds that state funding for higher education continues to show growth overall, but each state has its own tale to tell, particularly those that aren’t keeping pace with the trend. Support for higher education in state budgets rose by 3.4 percent across the country from the 2015-16 to 2016-17 fiscal years, preliminary data from the latest Grapevine survey shows.

Report

As Cuomo Proposal Rekindles Free College Movement, New Research Provides Ammunition for Skeptics
Brookings Institution

In early January, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced his intention to make a public college education tuition-free for most students in the state. The proposal has breathed life back into the free college movement, which supporters feared would lose momentum under the incoming presidential administration. Instead, momentum has simply relocated (back) to the state level. Tennessee and Oregon already have their own “free college” initiatives, and just this week, Governor Gina Raimondo proposed a version for Rhode Island.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Wealthier Grad Students Earn the Most Lucrative Degrees

More Americans are pursuing graduate degrees, but it’s the students from wealthier backgrounds who are most likely to earn the degrees that pay the most, a new report shows.

“I think that the idea that people from low-income backgrounds are so unlikely ever to get to medical school or law school is definitely a problem,” said Sandy Baum, a renowned scholar on the economics of higher education and a co-writer of the report.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Who Benefits from New York’s Free College Plan?

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to make tuition free year at New York’s public colleges and universities for students from families earning less than $125,000 is being touted as a shot across the progressive bow. As the new Congress and White House tout a conservative agenda, the governor is offering a playbook that states could use to capitalize on the liberal currents that crisscrossed the Democratic presidential primaries.

Member Stories

November 17-December 1
Some of our favorite stories by EWA members in the last two weeks

Who is Betsy DeVos? Dale Mezzacappa, Greg Windle and Darryl Murphy of the Philadelphia Public School Notebook team up for a closer look at the Michigan billionaire who is poised to become the next U.S. secretary of education. 

 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Public Universities Have ‘Really Lost Our Focus’
Q&A with Christopher Newfield

Since the 1970s, a “doom loop” has pervaded higher education, writes Christopher Newfield in his new book The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them. Newfield, a professor of American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, calls this loop “privatization” – the hidden and overt ways that “business practices restructure teaching and research.”

Seminar

Doing More With Higher Ed Data: From Policy to Newsrooms
Philadelphia • February 2–3, 2017

With colleges and universities under increased pressure to ensure that more students earn degrees without amassing mountains of debt, journalists are at the forefront in examining how these institutions  measure up. But there’s one major obstacle that both colleges and reporters share when it comes to making sense of how well these schools are meeting their goals: insufficient data.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

College Completion Failures Must Be Tackled in Tandem With Costs, Report Says

By Shenandoah University Office of Marketing and Communications (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Two numbers haunt the college landscape: $1.3 trillion and 40 percent.

The first is the ever-increasing debt Americans are shouldering to pay off the cost of a degree. But a growing chorus of experts believes that extraordinary sum obscures another crisis: For many, those debts wouldn’t be as devastating had they earned a degree. But only 40 percent of Americans complete a bachelor’s degree in four years.

The upshot is that millions of Americans earning meager wages are on the hook for thousands of dollars with almost nothing to show for it.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Understanding the Student Loan-Debt Picture

By Dwight Burdette, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

“There’s a lot of talk about the student debt crisis and I’m going to tell you that I don’t think there really is a student debt crisis,” said Debbie Cochrane, vice president at The Institute for College Access and Success. “What there are are multiple student debt crises.”

Webinar

Know the Score: Finding Stories in College Scorecard Data

Know the Score: Finding Stories in College Scorecard Data

How many first-generation students does a college have? How much does the school charge students from families earning $30,000 versus more than $75,000? And how many students are repaying their student loan debt three years after college?

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Analyzing College Endowments: Do’s and Don’ts

Analyzing College Endowments: Do’s and Don’ts

You’d be forgiven for thinking higher-education reporting is a game of billion-dollar bingo, with each aspect of the beat pegged to insane sums, such as the $1.3 trillion in student loan debt.

One way of answering whether students are getting a fair shake is to see if the colleges that educate them are spending the institution’s resources in ways that enable more college-goers to afford the cost of a postsecondary degree. 

Key Coverage

Median Income Is Down, But Public College Tuition Is Way Up
Look up your state or a specific college or university

Public colleges play a special role in making higher education affordable, but in recent years, soaring tuition is pushing that dream out of reach. From 2000 to 2014, the average cost of in-state tuition and fees for public colleges in America rose 80 percent. During that same time period, the median American household income dropped by 7 percent. 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The ‘$500 Million Club’ of Colleges Tends to Be Stingy With Aid to Low-Income Students

Swarthmore College, where 13 percent of the student body receives Pell grants, has an endowment of $1.5 billion, and spent 3.7 percent of it in 2013.By Kungming2 CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Call them the top four percent: elite private colleges and universities that together sit atop three-quarters of the higher education terrain’s endowment wealth.

Among that group of 138 of the nation’s wealthiest colleges and universities, four in five charge poor students so much that they’d need to surrender 60 percent or more of their household incomes just to attend, even after financial aid is considered. Nearly half have enrollment rates of low-income students that place them in the bottom 5 percent nationally for such enrollment.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Study: Rich College Students Don’t Receive More State Money Than Poor Students

Image of UCLA, a high-performing public university with 39 percent of its students receiving Pell grants in 2013-14. Flickr/Prayitno (CC BY 2.0)

Do more public dollars flow to higher-income students attending public universities? 

Some critics of the current public higher education model say that because wealthier students are more likely to attend top-tier public universities, which are better funded than other public institutions, these well-off students essentially receive a generous taxpayer-funded subsidy. Such critics also point to the fact that lower-income students tend to enroll at less-selective colleges that receive far less state support.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Seven Higher Ed Stories Journalists Should Be Covering This Year

Inside Higher Ed Editor Scott Jaschik started his annual listing of higher education stories ripe for coverage this upcoming year by asking journalists to do better when choosing which news developments to cover.

In May, just before Jaschik’s presentation at the Education Writers Association’s conference in Boston, President Obama’s daughter Malia had recently committed to attending Harvard University and taking a “gap year.”

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The Republican Plan For Higher Education: Less Red Tape And Less Money

By Bjoertvedt (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Past is prologue.

That’s what Republicans promise in the higher education platform they’ll finalize at their national convention in Cleveland: an approach that follows the direction they’ve already taken in Congress.

Fewer regulations for colleges and universities. Less red tape for students.

Less money.

“Obviously what we do legislatively is a statement of our philosophy and our principles,” said Virginia Foxx, Republican chair of the House subcommittee that oversees higher education and co-chair of the GOP platform committee.

Report

The Growing Size and Incomes of the Upper Middle Class
Urban Institute

This report uses absolute income thresholds adjusted for inflation and family size to show that the size of the upper middle class grew from 12.9 percent of the population in 1979 to 29.4 percent in 2014. In terms of shares of total income, the middle class controlled a bit more than 46 percent of all incomes in 1979, while the upper middle class and rich controlled 30 percent. By 2014, the rich and upper middle class controlled 63 percent of all incomes, while the middle class share had shrunk to 26 percent.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

A Look at the Student Loan Interest Rates for Fall

Pixabay/0TheFool

College students this fall likely will save some money on their federal student loans because of declining interest rates.

Starting July 1, the loans that millions of students rely on to finance their higher education hopes will drop by about half of a percentage point. The new rates, calculated by the advocacy group The Institute for College Access & Success, are:

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

States Have Cut Money For Higher Education 17 Percent Since The Recession, Report Finds

Source: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)

This post was updated. 

In spite of a gradual economic recovery and improving revenues, most states are spending dramatically less on public higher education, a new report says.

States are collectively investing 17 percent less in their public colleges and universities, or $1,525 less per student, since 2007, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, which used inflation-adjusted figures.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Higher Ed: Hunger on Campus

Flickr/Salvation Army USA West (CC BY 2.0)

The stereotypes of the financially struggling college students are well-known. They live on ramen, share an apartment or house with several roommates, and work part-time for money to buy beer. They get summer jobs to cover college tuition and expenses. And they come from middle- and upper-class families, so if they do struggle sometimes to pay the bills, that scarcity is hip and cool.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Financial Aid ‘Arms War’ Continues to Drain Cash From Colleges

Source: NACUBO

The nation’s private colleges are distributing more dollars to attract students at a speed that threatens to unravel their fiscal health, new figures suggest.

Eighty-eight percent of first-time, full-time freshmen received tuition discounts this year and last, according to a survey of 401 private, nonprofit colleges released today by the National Association of College and University Business Officers. The average grant awarded in this academic year covered about 56 percent of tuition and fees.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

State-by-State Rankings of College Affordability

Atomic Taco/Flickr (Highline Community College)

An affordable college education. Politicians and bus stop ads promise it, students and parents dream of it. But can anyone define it?

Authors of one data-rich report tried their best to bring this vague yet crucial concept into focus by answering a simple question: What percent of your income would you need to pay to go to college in each state?

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Latino Graduation Rates Highest at Selective Institutions

Source: Flickr/ via Alan Light (CC BY 2.0)

The more selective the institution, the higher the graduation rate for Latino students, a new study by Excelencia in Education shows. 

At selective colleges and universities — those that admit less than half of applicants — 68 percent of Latino students graduate and are more likely to do so on time. At other four-year institutions and two-year colleges, the Latino graduation rates are 47 and 17 percent, respectively. 

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Former Chancellors of Research Universities Warn Their Future Is in Peril
New Report Urges Dramatic Changes to Save a System That’s “Breaking Down”

Flickr/Sharada Prasad CS (CC BY 2.0)

The system for funding American flagship public universities is “gradually breaking down,” said Robert J. Birgeneau, a former chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, and the co-chair of a two-year project to examine the role of public research universities and recommend changes to help them stay competitive.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Students Rich and Poor Are Stressed Out Over Paying for College

b r e n t/Flickr (CC By 2.0)

A survey of the nation’s college freshmen indicates a class of young adults stressed out about the cost of financing a degree, even if they’re relatively well off.

The study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute lends new insight into not only the concerns young college students have about their debt loads, but also the effects high school experiences have on their attitudes about higher education.

Report

Trends in College Spending: 2003-2013 – Where Does the Money Come From? Where Does It Go? What Does It Buy?
American Institutes for Research

Trends in College Spending: 2003–2013 examines college and university finances during one of the most turbulent economic periods in decades. The financial ramifications of the 2008 recession were vast, affecting students’ ability to pay for college, lawmakers’ prioritization of public resources, and the budgetary environment facing higher education leaders. The challenges brought by the fiscal crisis also provided colleges and universities with an opportunity to reevaluate how they allocated resources and rethink how to manage costs and improve student outcomes.

Seminar

Higher Ed 2016
September 16–17 • Tempe, Arizona

What new techniques and practices should higher education embrace to ensure that more students graduate? Join the Education Writers Association September 16–17 at Arizona State University to explore cutting-edge innovations that aim to address financial, academic, and social barriers. More on the seminar theme.

This annual seminar is one of the largest gatherings of journalists covering postsecondary education. Network with others covering this beat and step up your coverage for the upcoming academic year.

Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona
Key Coverage

College Sports’ Fastest-Rising Expense: Paying Coaches Not to Work

These are just a few examples of the golden parachutes that await newly unemployed coaches in the lucrative world of major college sports, a phenomenon recently retired football coach Steve Spurrier once called “hitting that lottery ticket.” Severance pay is the top-rising expense for athletic departments at some of America’s largest public universities, according to a Washington Post review of thousands of pages of financial records from schools in the five wealthiest conferences in college sports.

Webinar

Seven Challenges First-Generation College Students Face & How to Write About Them

(Bigstock/michaeljung)

While many first-generation students are excited and ambitious when they step on campus — eager to beat the odds and become the first in their families to earn a college degree — others struggle with guilt, fear and loneliness, sometimes even struggling to remember why they decided to attend college in the first place. And they grapple with these feelings while they also have to figure out how to apply for financial aid, register for classes, and manage the other necessities of undergraduate life knowing they can’t turn to their families for guidance based on experience.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

Debt-Free College: Why It’s News Now

As Democratic presidential hopefuls assemble in Las Vegas today for their first formal debate, one topic that has received little airtime during the Republican face-offs is likely to garner far more attention: the high cost of attaining a college degree.

Blog: Higher Ed Beat

The New Effort to Link College to Careers

Students of the culinary program at Valencia College in Orlando demonstrate their kitchen skills. (Source: Twitter/@GabrielleRusson)

As tuitions swell and student loan debt climbs further, one aspect of higher education that has been overlooked is the recipe required to transform a college education into a set of skills that prepares students for the workspace.

As it turns out, neither colleges nor employers have a firm grasp on what flavor that special sauce should have, reporters learned at “The Way to Work: Covering the Path from College to Careers” – the Education Writers Association’s seminar on higher education held in Orlando Sep. 18-19.

Seminar

69th EWA National Seminar

The Education Writers Association, the national professional organization for journalists who cover education, is thrilled to announce that its annual conference will take place from Sunday, May 1, through Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in the historic city of Boston.

Co-hosted by Boston University’s College of Communication and School of Education, EWA’s 69th National Seminar will examine a wide array of timely topics in education — from early childhood through career — while expanding and sharpening participants’ skills in reporting and storytelling.

Boston, Massachusetts
Blog: The Educated Reporter

Student Debt Forgiveness Program Adding Up

Flickr/COD Newsroom (CC BY 2.0)

A government program that allows student loan borrowers to reduce their monthly payments significantly is growing in popularity — and increasingly eating into U.S. federal coffers.

The U.S. Department of Education is sticking to the rosier news in a brief report released this week that shows the number of U.S. student loan holders enrolled in income-based repayment plans has jumped by more than 50 percent since last year. According to the government, 3.9 million borrowers have signed up for income-based repayment plans as of June of this year.

Multimedia

New Insights on State Funding for Higher Education
2015 EWA National Seminar

New Insights on State Funding for Higher Education

The Great Recession saw most states drastically cut their spending on public colleges, leading most of those colleges to increase their tuition. As the national economy continues to recover, how has state funding for postsecondary education fared and what does it mean for students and their families?

  • Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, The Washington Post (Moderator)
  • Daniel Hurley, American Association of State Colleges and Universities
  • Laura Perna, University of Pennsylvania
  • Ray Scheppach, University of Virginia
Multimedia

Can FAFSA Be Fixed?
2015 EWA National Seminar

Can FAFSA Be Fixed?

How many questions does the crucial federal financial aid form really need? Proposals to simplify have ranged from trimming the form’s dozens of questions to replacing the form with just few queries on a postcard. This session illuminates how key questions can affect how much aid a student receives.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Asking the Right Questions About Student Loan Debt

Students rally in San Francisco for relief from their student loan debt. (Flickr/jjinsf94115)

There’s no doubt about it: Student loans can be a big financial burden to recent college graduates.

But if borrowers are provided with more information on repayment plans and other tools to help manage debt, chances are they’ll be less likely to default on their loans, according to a panel conversation on student loans at the Education Writers Association’s 2015 national conference in Chicago.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Do States Undervalue Higher Education?

Students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee rally against proposed state budget cuts to higher education. (Flickr/marctasman)

Tuition caps, budget cuts and wayward priorities when it comes to funding higher education — oh, my.

It’s time for states to decide the value of higher education. Or rather, it’s time for state leaders to decide if they value higher education enough to fund it properly.

EWA Radio

After Pushback, White House Yields on College Ratings
EWA Radio: Episode 28

After nearly two years of public debate, and vociferous pushback from the higher education community, the White House announced it is pulling back on plans to rate the nation’s colleges based on a complex matrix of performance measures and student outcomes. Paul Fain, news editor for Inside Higher Ed has been following this story closely since the beginning, and he helped break the news that the Obama administration was scrapping the most controversial parts of its original proposal.

He spoke with EWA public editor Emily Richmond about who’s surprised by the decision (hint: not a lot of people), and the role played by aggressive lobbying against the rating plan by much of the higher education community. Fain and Richmond also discussed college ratings and consumer tools already available, and how to answer parents and students who ask for advice on choosing a school.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

An ‘H’ for ‘Hispanic’ at Many HBCUs

Small class sizes, athletic scholarship opportunities and track records for serving low-income, first-generation college students could be what’s driving the growth of populations of Hispanic students at historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Keeping Track of For-Profit Colleges

Flickr/Velkr0

With a top advocate for for-profit colleges at her right, and a man leading the legal campaign against wayward for-profits at her left, Chronicle of Higher Education financial reporter Goldie Blumenstyk jokingly reassured her audience: “Despite what this looks like, it’s not going to be a debate.”

Story Lab

Story Lab: Making Federal Data a Gold Mine for Your Reporting

Need a state or national statistic? There’s likely a federal data set for that. From fairly intuitive and interactive widgets to dense spreadsheets — and hundreds of data summaries in between — the U.S. Department of Education’s various research programs are a gold mine for reporters on the hunt for facts and figures.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Vegas Campus Claims Nevada’s First HSI Title

On Monday, the College of Southern Nevada became the state’s first Hispanic-serving institution — a designation that two more Nevada colleges also might earn in the near future as the Las Vegas Valley’s Latino population continues to grow. 

Report

State Funding Trends and Policies on Affordability
U.S. GAO

From fiscal years 2003 through 2012, state funding for all public colleges decreased, while tuition rose. Specifically, state funding decreased by 12 percent overall while median tuition rose 55 percent across all public colleges. The decline in state funding for public colleges may have been due in part to the impact of the recent recession on state budgets. Colleges began receiving less of their total funding from states and increasingly relied on tuition revenue during this period.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Merit System? The Choices Colleges Make in Providing Financial Aid

Flickr/ meddygarnet (CC BY 2.0)

Name the batch of funding that accounts for a quarter of the money that public universities dole out in financial aid. Can’t?

It’s called merit aid, and a large portion of the college-going public is paying its way through school relying on it. One-third of all undergraduates receive merit aid; the same is true for nearly half of all private school students. Hope Scholarships in Tennessee and Georgia are examples of merit aid programs, though merit aid often comes from the institutions directly.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Reporting on College Financial Aid? EWA Can Help

Who deserves money for college more: students whose test scores and grades qualify them for “merit aid” or students with greater financial need who might be unable to afford college otherwise? New research suggests that colleges might increasingly be favoring less-needy students, in a quest to boost their schools’ rankings and help their bottom lines. Does that finding hold up to scrutiny? And how do colleges’ decisions on need-based versus merit aid affect college enrollment and completion?

Report

A Great Recession, a Great Retreat
David A. Bergeron, Elizabeth Baylor, Antoinette Flores, Center for American Progress

Public investment in higher education is vital to the performance of our economy. First and foremost, America’s public colleges and universities offer citizens a steadfast path toward personal economic growth and opportunity. An educated workforce also delivers a substantial return on public investment in the form of economic expansion through sustained employment, higher earnings, new and continued business development, and ultimately, higher tax revenues.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Deciphering Student-Loan Default Rates

© PamelaJoeMcFarlane (Source: iStock)

The federal government today released a snapshot of how well borrowers with federal student loans are repaying their debts, indicating that fewer Americans are defaulting on their college loans compared to past years, but that the figures still exceed pre-recession levels.

Report

A Federal Work Study Reform Agenda to Better Serve Low-Income Students
Young Invincibles

Decades ago, a young person could graduate from high school, join a company, and receive all the training on the job that she or he needed for a successful career. Today, the world is different. A young man with only a high school diploma now earns 75 cents on the inflation-adjusted dollar his father made in 1980. Even worse, a brutal recession and sluggish recovery has young people confronting double-digit unemployment rates. Fierce competition for entry-level positions requires our generation to not only acquire post-secondary education, but also gain on-the-job experience and skills.

Report

Colleges’ Pursuit of Prestige and Revenue Is Hurting Low-Income Students

Fifty years ago, the federal government committed itself to removing the financial barriers that prevent low-income students from enrolling in and completing college. For years, colleges complemented the government’s efforts by using their financial aid resources to open their doors to the neediest students. But a new report from New America suggests those days are in the past, with an increasing number of colleges using their financial resources to fiercely compete for the students they most desire: the “best and brightest” — and the wealthiest.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Experts: The White House Plan to Rate Colleges Has Major Issues

Michelle Asha Cooper(L), director of the Institute for Higher Education Policy, speaks at the Higher Education Seminar put on by the Education Writers Association and hosted by Southern Methodist University (Credit: SMU 2014, Photo by Kim Leeson)

A new rating system backed by the White House aims to evaluate nearly all of the nation’s colleges and universities. Roughly 6,000 schools that educate around 22 million students are about to endure an unprecedented amount of federal scrutiny.

And though a version of the Postsecondary Institution Ratings System is scheduled to be unveiled in the fall, policy watchers are still unsure of what’s in store.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How to Help the 21st Century College Student

Source: Flickr/College of DuPage Newsroom

When Mark Milliron met with an advertising team to promote a new type of college in Texas, he wasn’t expecting fireworks. Still, the pitch floored him.

“The Texas Two-Step: Sign Up. Succeed.”

It was the sentence that would appear on billboards and in radio advertisements, enticing thousands of working adults to enroll in an online college – Western Governors University Texas. And it totally missed the point.

Report

A College Education Saddles Young Households with Debt, but Still Pays Off
Daniel Carroll and Amy Higgins

The labor market bonus for completing a college degree is not fully realized in the early years of working. Looking at the wage income of households headed by an individual between 30 and 65 years of age reveals a much larger premium, both at the median and the 90th percentile. In many professions, a college degree combined with work experience opens the door to senior-level administrative positions and higher salaries. The average wage-income premium among these older households was 88 percent for degree-holding median earners and 93 percent for 90th percentile earners.

Post

At What Cost?
How Community Colleges that Do Not Offer Federal Loans Put Students at Risk

With Americans increasingly having to borrow to pay for college, a new report from The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS) finds that nearly one million community college students cannot get federal student loans because their school chooses not to offer them. Without access to federal student loans, students may not be able to stay enrolled without turning to more costly and risky forms of borrowing such as credit cards or private loans, or reducing their chances of graduating by working longer hours or cutting back on classes.
 

Seminar

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Covering the College Student Experience
2014 Higher Ed Seminar

For many college students — whether fresh out of high school or adults returning to school — their most serious obstacles to a degree won’t be homework or tests, but rather the challenges of navigating student life. Colleges are now being forced to face the longstanding problems that have often led to students’ flailing and failing on their own. 

Report

The One Percent at State U
Institute for Policy Studies

State universities have come under increasing criticism for excessive executive pay, soaring student debt, and low-wage faculty labor. In the public debate, these issues are often treated separately. Our study examines what happened to student debt and faculty labor at the 25 public universities with the highest executive pay (hereafter “the top 25″) from fall 2005 to summer 2012 (FY 2006 – FY 2012). Our findings suggest these issues are closely related and should be addressed together in the future.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Top 10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering

Scott Jaschik addresses reporters at EWA's 67th National Seminar at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.

For higher education reporters, Inside Higher Ed editor Scott Jaschik’s annual top-10 list of story ideas is a highlight of EWA’s National Seminar. This year at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Jaschik kicked off his roundup with  an issue that has affected many institutions around the country: sexual assault. The key to covering this story, he said, is not to imply that this is a new problem. Increased attention from the White House has challenged the ways that many colleges have addressed these incidents.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Why Did a ‘Hispanic’ University Fail?

When the National Hispanic University opened in California in 1981, founder B. Roberto Cruz was frustrated about how few Latinos were enrolled in college.

NPR reports that the San Jose-based university’s mission was to create a culturally sensitive space for Latino college students in the same way that historically black colleges and universities had done for black students many years earlier.

Report

U.S. GAO – Federal Student Loans: Better Oversight Could Improve Defaulted Loan Rehabilitation

The Department of Education (Education) relies on collection agencies to assist borrowers in rehabilitating defaulted student loans, which allows borrowers who make nine on-time monthly payments within 10 months to have the default removed from their credit reports. Education works with 22 collection agencies to locate borrowers and explain repayment options, including rehabilitation.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

‘How I Did the Story’: Award-Winning Higher Ed Reporters Share Their Skills

Here’s a little gift for the holidays: Advice from higher education reporters who won the top prizes in EWA’s National Awards for Education Writing.They shared their perspectives with attendees at our 66th National Seminar, held at Stanford University.We asked Samantha Hernandez of the Door County Advocate to contribute today’s guest post.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Higher Ed Beat: What Are the Top 10 Stories on College Campuses?

Higher Ed Beat: What Are the Top 10 Stories on College Campuses?

I’ll admit it – I look forward every fall when Scott Jaschik shares his “cheat sheet”of story ideas at EWA’s annual Higher Education Seminar.This year we met at Northeastern University, and Scott didn’t disappoint.We asked journalists who attended the seminar to contribute posts, and today’s guest blogger is Michael Vasquez of the Miami Herald.For more on higher education issues, including community colleges,

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Obama’s College Proposal: The Shape of Ratings to Come

EWA held its annual Higher Education Seminar recently at Boston’s Northeastern University. We invited some of the education journalists in attendance to contribute posts from the sessions. Today’s guest blogger is Mary Beth Marklein of USA Today. For more content from the seminar, including stories, podcasts, video, check out EdMedia Commons.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

How I borrowed a lot and paid back a little: A writer’s take on Income Based Repayment

In May of my senior year at Union College (See photo), the only thing I was thinking about was passing finals and completing papers with pretentious titles.  Postgraduation plans, like a job, were nothing more than vapors momentarily wafting in the way of those footnotes buried in my textbooks.  I had no idea what kind of job I’d get, but I did know one thing for certain: I’d wrap up my college education with roughly $17,000 in federally subsidized debt.

Webinar

What’s the Price? ‘Pay As You Earn’ and Income-Based Repayment
57 minutes

Who will benefit more from the federal government’s new “Pay As You Earn” income-based repayment program for student loans: Recent graduates struggling to find jobs in a tough economy? Or high-paid professionals such as lawyers and business executives, who might be able to wipe away tens of thousands of dollars of student loan debt? Why are the income-based repayment options so underused when as many as one out of five borrowers has fallen behind on payments?

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State Higher Education Finance 2012

State and local government financial commitment to higher education has increased substantially over the past twenty-five years. In 1987, state and local governments combined provided $33.3 billion in direct support for general operating expenses of public and independent higher education institutions. This investment increased to $50.3 billion in 1997, $82.7 billion in 2007, and $88.8 billion by 2008 (the high point in national aggregate funding).

Multimedia

10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering This Year

10 Higher Education Stories You Should Be Covering This Year

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik talks to reporters about 10 stories he wants to see in 2013 (added bonus: three “don’ts” to observe while covering the higher ed beat).

This address was a part of “Degrees vs. Debt: Making College More Affordable,” EWA’s Nov. 2-3 2012 seminar for higher ed reporters at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis.

EWA Radio

Who’s Subsidizing Whom and Other Secrets of Tuition Pricing

When students pay different amounts to take the same courses, does one student’s tuition go toward another’s education? We take close look at this debate as part of a discussion of the factors that college and university administrators consider when they determine tuition prices. Panlists: Jon Marcus, Hechinger Report (moderator); Steve Hurlburt, Delta Cost Project; Paul Lingenfelter, State Higher Education Executive Officers; Richard Vedder, Ohio University/Center for College Affordability and Productivity.

Blog: The Educated Reporter

Making Sure the College Completion Numbers Add Up

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Education released an action plan that would revise how colleges and universities are evaluated, with graduation rates to now reflect students who attend part-time, as well as those who are returning to school.

The new formula is particularly important for community colleges, which have long complained that two significant segments of their student populations were being underreported. And a new web tool launching today from the College Board could offer more perspective on how community colleges are performing.

Multimedia

Higher Ed’s Cash Crunch: Who’s Getting Hurt?

Higher Ed’s Cash Crunch: Who’s Getting Hurt?

From EWA’s Nov 4-5 Higher Education Seminar at UCLA: The latest updates on what government budget cuts mean for colleges and students. What is the current impact on public colleges and universities and what is the outlook for further cuts in 2012?

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Fiscal Year 2013 Recap and Fiscal Year 2014 Early Analysis

“Making sense of the annual appropriations process and the federal education budget can be a frustrating task for education advocates, state and local policymakers, the media, and the public. With the fiscal year 2013 budget and appropriations process now complete and the 2014 process just beginning, now is an opportune time to assess how federal education programs have been, and are likely to be, affected by these developments.”

Organization

Association of College and University Housing Officers

The Association of College and University Housing Officers – International is the professional organization for employees who manage dormitories and other housing options for colleges. ACUHO-I can be a helpful source for information on the ways colleges might use housing to increase their revenues.

Organization

State Higher Education Executive Officers

The State Higher Education Executive Officers organization surveys its members on a regular basis regarding various financial trends in higher education. These SHEEO reports can be the foundation for a variety of articles about the affordability of postsecondary education.

Organization

Delta Cost Project

The Delta Cost Project is a research organization that examines how colleges and universities collect and spend the revenues upon which they depend. Their research can be critical to most articles that deal with the financial aspects of colleges, particularly the reasons why tuition and other costs have been increasing.

Organization

The College Board

The College Board is known primarily for their SAT and Advanced Placement tests, which play critical roles in the college admissions process, both for students and admissions officers across the country. The College Board, however, does also have an Advocacy & Policy Center that actively researches key issues of college access and success. Their annual reports regarding trends in college costs and financial aid are key tools of the higher education beat.

Report

Grapevine

Illinois State University and the State Higher Education Executive Officers jointly produce this compilation of state taxpayer support (i.e. subsidies or revenues) for educational systems.

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Executive Compensation

The Chronicle of Higher Education collects and publishes data on the compensation of private college presidents and public college presidents. Access to these databases does require a subscription to the site.

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Guidestar

Guidestar offers a free, online repository of all nonprofit institutions’ (including private, non-profit colleges’) tax forms, including the often informative 990, which includes executive compensation, spending on fundraising, grants to non-citizens and other interesting data. The site offers access for free, but registration is required.

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National Center for Education Statistics

U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is considered the definitive source of education statistics. The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS allows you to, for example, discover and compare what colleges spend on instructors administration, research, financial aid, or find the trend data for one particular college. IPEDS also enables you to, for example, compare all colleges’ sticker prices, say, or find the trend data for one particular college.

Key Coverage

Why Some Small Colleges Are In Big Trouble

Heavily dependent on recruiting students from within New England, these colleges collectively face a steep drop in the number of high school graduates, increasing sensitivity to cost, and new competition from online higher education and other cheaper alternatives.

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National Association of College and University Business Officers

NACUBO publishes an annual survey of that year’s estimated “discount” on sticker price by private colleges that allows you to estimate net prices that families actually pay out of pocket. In conjunction with the Common Fund, NACUBO also publishes an annual estimate of the gain and level of every college’s endowment.

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Trends in Pricing

The yearly report from the College Board, usually issued each October, is considered one of the most up-to-date summaries of average college net and sticker prices. Be aware, however, that there seems to be a disconnect between the net price numbers and trends published by the federal government and the numbers and trends published by the College Board. So be sure to check both because they sometimes diverge and will lead to opposite conclusions.

Key Coverage

For Poor, Leap to College Often Ends in a Hard Fall

The growing role of class in academic success has taken experts by surprise since it follows decades of equal opportunity efforts and counters racial trends, where differences have narrowed. It adds to fears over recent evidence suggesting that low-income Americans have lower chances of upward mobility than counterparts in Canada and Western Europe.

Key Coverage

13th Grade: Older, Returning Students Strain Florida’s Community and State Colleges

There are a lot of people in Florida going through what Pepper Harth is going through. Remedial classes in math, reading and writing are seeing a surge of students at Florida’s 28 community and state colleges — schools where all students are welcome as long as they have a high school diploma or G.E.D. From 2004 to 2011, Florida’s remedial education costs for both students and schools ballooned from $118 million to $168 million. 

Key Coverage

Student-Loan Delinquencies Now Surpass Credit Cards

Of the $956 billion in student-loan debt outstanding as of September, 11 percent was delinquent — up from less than 9 percent in the second quarter, and higher than the 10.5 percent of credit-card debt, which was delinquent in the third quarter. By comparison, delinquency rates on mortgages, home-equity lines of credit and auto loans stood at 5.9 percent, 4.9 percent, and 4.3 percent respectively as of September. 

Report

Student Debt and the Class of 2011

We estimate that two-thirds (66%) of college seniors who graduated in 2011 had student loan debt, with an average of $26,600 for those with loans. The five percent increase in average debt at the national level is similar to the average annual increase over the past few years. Also similar to previous years, about one-fifth of graduates’ debt is comprised of private loans. 

Key Coverage

No Income? No Problem! How the Gov’t Is Saddling Parents with College Loans They Can’t Afford

A joint examination by ProPublica and The Chronicle of Higher Education has found that Plus loans can sometimes hurt the very families they are intended to help: The loans are both remarkably easy to get and nearly impossible to get out from under for families who’ve overreached. When a parent applies for a Plus loan, the government checks credit history, but it doesn’t assess whether the borrower has the ability to repay the loan. It doesn’t check income. It doesn’t check employment status.

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Debt, Jobs, Diversity and Who Gets In: A Survey of Admissions Directors

At a time of increasing national concern about debt levels of college students, a plurality of college admissions directors in a new survey by Inside Higher Ed indicated that current average loan volume for undergraduates is reasonable — and 22 percent of all admissions directors and 28 percent of those at private colleges would be comfortable with the average student debt being even higher than it is now. 

Key Coverage

A Disruption Grows Up?

Competency-based education could be a game-changer for adult students, probably more so than MOOCs. Yet despite the backing of powerful supporters, colleges have been reluctant to go all-in because they are unsure whether accreditors and the federal government will give the nod to degree programs that look nothing like the traditional college model.

Key Coverage

Too High a Price?

Grinnell’s discussions follow closely on the heels of an announcement this summer by Wesleyan University that it was moving away from need-blind admissions, saying that if the college could not generate enough money to cover financial aid, it would consider students’ financial need in some of its decisions (possibly 10 percent of the class). The move has generated backlash among students, alumni and others at the university. Grinnell administrators said a policy like Wesleyan’s is on the table.

Key Coverage

Obama, GOP duel over rising college expenses

WASHINGTON – President Obama would make tax credits for college expenses permanent and expand Pell grants for students from lower-earning families. The Republican team of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would emphasize the need to curb rising tuitions and federal education spending that are burdening families and the government.

Key Coverage

Parking Pros: UT Far Exceeds City in Tickets Issued, Revenue Returned

Each year, UT’s parking department issues twice as many tickets as the city where it is, and it compels nine out of 10 violators to pay the fine. That adds up to about $1.2 million in revenue each year.

University parking data examined by the News Sentinel reveals those details and other glimpses into the habits of thousands of campus drivers and the sweeping organization keeping them in check.
What time of day are drivers most likely to get a ticket? Watch where you park between 10 and 11 in the morning.

 

Key Coverage

Teacher’s Wages Garnished as U.S. Goes After Loan Default

Lawyers drained Linda Brice’s bank account and seized a quarter of her take-home pay, or more than $900 a month. Brice, a first-grade teacher and Coast Guard veteran, begged for mercy, saying she couldn’t afford food, gas or utilities.

Brice’s transgression: she defaulted on $3,100 she had borrowed more than 30 years ago to pay for college. The chief federal judge in Los Angeles took her side, ruling that Brice should pay only $25 a month. The law firm of Goldsmith & Hull — representing the federal government — then withdrew $2,496 from her bank account. 

Key Coverage

Budget Disparity Growing Among NCAA Division 1 Schools

While most higher education reporters tend to steer clear of the sports side of universities, there can be compelling finance stories in this part of campus life. “Major-college athletics departments increased the amount of money they generate by nearly $190 million in 2011, but they increased their spending by more than $267 million,” this article reports. So, how do colleges cover that difference in costs? 

Key Coverage

Taxpayers Fund $454,000 Pay for Collector Chasing Student Loans

How’s this for a startling opening sentence: “Joshua Mandelman made $454,000 in a single year as a student-loan debt collector — more than twice the pay of the U.S. secretary of education.” The article offers a revealing look at “guaranty agencies,” a little-covered part of the higher education beat that can contribute significantly to costs. 

Key Coverage

Football Fails Profit Test as Students Pay $1,000

Rutgers adds $1,000 in fees to student bills to cover costs of football program. “Rutgers funneled $28.5 million from the university budget and student fees into sports, the most among 54 U.S. public universities in the biggest football conferences, based on data compiled by Bloomberg.” The site also posts the list for these schools. 

Key Coverage

Federal Regulations Are Not Making College More Expensive

Higher education expert Kevin Carey attempts to debunk a belief often touted by policymakers, administrators and critics. He concludes that “The worst thing about this whole conversation is that that there’s a much stronger argument to be made that rising college prices are a function of too little federal regulation, not too much.”  

Key Coverage

Executive Compensation at Private Colleges

Each year, The Chronicle of Higher Education publishes lists based on its analyses of how much the presidents of public and private colleges are paid. The list for public colleges also is accessible through this link. 

Key Coverage

180 Private Colleges Fail Education Dept.’s Latest Financial Responsibility Test

Every couple of years, the federal government issues an analysis of the financial strength of colleges. “Financial-responsibility scores, which are derived from the audited financial statements that colleges submit annually to the department, are supposed to offer a broad measure of colleges’ financial health. By placing restrictions on failing programs, the department seeks to protect students and taxpayers from colleges at risk of financial collapse.” 

Key Coverage

Maintenance Over Management: A Survey of Business Officers

This survey of important campus administrators including business officers and admissions officers reveals some interesting trends. “[A]bout 60 percent of all respondents to the survey disagreed or strongly disagreed that “my institution can make additional and significant budget cuts without hurting quality.” 

Key Coverage

Lost in Translation

EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. Unscrupulous Chinese firms promise families and college- bound students from the mainland admission to prestigious American universities provided they pay large fees. What they get in return varies, with worst-case scenarios including living miles from the U.S. campus and thousands of dollars of unforeseen bills. Yet because of U.S. colleges’ appetite for the tuition foreign students pay, fixing the problem isn’t easy.

Key Coverage

The Business of Higher Education

EWA 2012 National Reporting Contest winner. The relationships between pharmaceutical companies and academe, the aggressive enrollment tactics at for-profit schools, and applied science competitions to beef up New York City’s tech prowess are just some of the topics covered in this multi-article series on the apparent and hidden costs of running a university.  

Key Coverage

The Best Class Money Can Buy

“Over the past twenty years, often under cover of the euphemisms with which the industry abounds, enrollment management has transformed admissions and financial aid, and in some cases the entire mission of a college or a university,” notes this classic analysis of a key part of the business of universities. “Borrowing the most sophisticated techniques of business strategy, enrollment managers have installed market-driven competition at the heart of the university.”