Office of Planning and Budgeting

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released a report entitled Projections of Education Statistics to 2019. The Center seeks to predict future trends in enrollment, completion, and diversity in elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. The Center uses census data and economic forecasts to make its projections; however, such predictions are complicated to produce and always subject to unforeseen political, demographic and economic changes. Overall, the Center predicts growth in enrollment and degree completion for all levels of education, although it does not expect President Obama’s completion goals for higher education in 2020 to be met.

Major findings include:

  •  Total elementary and secondary school enrollment is projected to increase 6 percent by 2019, with especially large increases in the number of Hispanic, Asian, and Native American students. Western states are projected to drive much of this demographic change with a 12 percent increase in these enrollments.
  • The total number of high school graduates nationally is expected to increase by 1 percent by 2019. In the West, however, the number of grads is expected to rise 9 percent.
  • Enrollment in post-secondary programs is projected to increase 17 percent, to 22.4 million by 2019. Minorities again have the highest rates of increase in enrollment, with the number of Hispanic students in particular expected to increase by 45 percent.
  • Women are projected to have larger growth in post-secondary enrollment between now and 2019 (21 percent) than men (12 percent).
  • The number of degrees awarded is expected to increase alongside enrollment, associate’s degrees up 30 percent, bachelor’s degrees up 23 percent, master’s degrees up 34 percent, doctoral degrees 54 percent, and professional degrees 34 percent.

For more information, graphical representation of these data, and details on methodology, check out the full report. To read about some of the reactions to these data and potential limitations of the study, read Inside Higher Ed’s blog post on this topic

Governor Gregoire announced that she will call the Legislature back to Olympia for a 30-day special session at the end of November after the next revenue forecast is released. Gregoire will outline her expectations for the special session during a press conference this morning, which will be aired on TVW.

A November 2011 special session is not a complete surprise, as the latest revenue forecast reduced general fund revenue by $1.4 billion for the biennium. Many anticipate that the next revenue forecast will reduce anticipated revenue further. During the special session, the Legislature will likely move to reduce general fund appropriations for both the current fiscal year and FY13.

Please check this blog regularly for information about the upcoming special session, state budget cuts, and impacts on the UW budget.

On Thursday, September 16, the Washington State Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC) released its quarterly update of State General Fund Revenues. The forecast reduced expected revenue for the upcoming 2011-13 biennium to $30.3 billion, $1.4 billion less than the previous forecast released in June. A deficit of this magnitude is expected to necessitate another round of budget cuts for state agencies, including the UW, in the upcoming legislative session set to commence in January.

Read the latest OPB Brief for more detail.

The Delta Cost Project has published its latest Trends in College Spending report. This year’s version reports on revenue and spending trends in higher education from 1999 to 2009, the latest year of IPEDS data available at this time. As such, this version includes the first year of the recession’s impact on higher education finances.

Overall, the report confirms several already noted trends:

  • The resource gap between public and private institutions continues to grow, and is now so wide that competition between the sectors is virtually impossible (see Figure 22 on page 43 of the report linked above for a stark depiction).
  • At public institutions, the share of education related spending derived from tuition revenue has increased dramatically, surpassing the contribution from state appropriations at a number of universities, including the UW.
  • At public institutions, tuition increases in 2009 represented cost shifting from the public to the student and not increases in institutional spending.
  • At public institutions, administrative and maintenance spending remained flat or declined while spending on instruction went up slightly, indicating that, unlike previous recessions, institutions are making cuts more strategically to help protect the core academic mission.
  • Whether from improved retention or decreased extraneous course-taking, student credit hours per degree appear to have decreased between 2002 and 2009, which is one measurement of efficiency.
  • At public institutions, faculty salaries have been very flat as the cost of benefits have, on average, risen by over 5 percent per year, now accounting for almost 1/4th of all compensation costs.

Overall, this report does a great job of making it clear that the majority of students attend relatively affordable, cost-effective public institutions in the United States, even though a small number of pricey private institutions dominate the public perception. It also places revenue and expenditures in the context of student enrollment and the spectrum of university activities.

One issue we have consistently had with this report is the calculation of what is called the ‘subsidy’, an attempt to measure overall cost by combining various forms of institutional revenue with state appropriations and contrasting that with tuition revenue to determine what portion of overall cost is paid by the student and what portion is subsidized for the student. Our concerns with this measure were detailed in an earlier blog post and brief, if you are interested.

The controversial US News and World Report University Rankings have been released for 2012 and are freely available online for a limited period of time. The University of Washington slipped one spot to 42nd among National Universities in the US. The UW, however, comes in at the 10th best public institution in the nation.

Although the US News rankings have long been dominated by endowment-rich private institutions, it is notable that no public institution makes the top 20 anymore. A recent Washington Post article reported that, over the past 20 years, the five highest ranked public institutions have each dropped seven or more spots in the rankings.

In previous posts we have laid out the massive resource gap between public and private institutions that has widened over several decades and is reflected in these rankings:

Across the US, deep cuts in state funding for public higher education have accelerated this trend dramatically over the past three years. In response, the Seattle Times Company and several partners have formed to create the Greater Good Campaign to highlight the risks this trend poses to public higher education in Washington State and to the future of Washingtonians.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities’ (AASCU) July 2011 State Outlook confirms that most states cut higher education spending for fiscal year 2012. For some states, this is the third or even fourth consecutive year of higher education spending cuts.

Also unsurprising, AASCU identifies the 23 percent funding cut for higher education in Washington as the second highest in the country (behind a 24 percent cut for such spending in Arizona, and equal to a 23 percent cut in California). That cut, combined with previous reductions, mean that the University of Washington has lost half of its state funding in just four years.

The past few weeks have brought a lot of bad news for the for-profit education sector. Federal and state scrutiny of practices, costs, and outcomes, combined with tightened regulations, high profile lawsuits, and student reaction to high prices in a bad economy, have taken their toll on the sector:

  • A state investigation has been opened to determine whether for-profit institutions have been improperly compelling employees to support the candidate currently opposing Kentucky’s Attorney General, a man who also happens to be leading a 20 state joint investigation into the practices of for-profit institutions.
  • Enrollments have plunged even more deeply than they did last year across the sector as a whole (14.1% on average), and most dramatically across the largest companies, including 47% at Kaplan, 41% at Apollo, and 26% at Corinthian Colleges.
  • As a result of tightening regulations, bad press, and plunging enrollment, stock prices are going down.
  • A journalist at the Atlantic is wondering if, in order to survive, these institutions should get out of the business of educating students and attempt to use their large infrastructure and resources as consultants to more traditional institutions that are needing to scale their online education operations, and increase their ability to serve the non-traditional student population.

To read related OPBlog posts, see:

Having just read a frustrating New York Times article, Generation Limbo: Waiting it Out, I was all set to write a blog post about the longstanding failure of higher education press coverage that almost exclusively focuses on unrepresentative and sensational ‘trends’ such as the ‘oversupply’ of college graduates, the ‘epidemic’ of students with six figures in debt for a four year degree in the humanities, the ‘widespread’ single digit admissions rates, and the ‘common’ $50,000 per year price tags.

And then I discovered that Kevin Carey beat me to the punch. After reading Carey’s blog post, follow his link to the piece he wrote for The New Republic, and then check below for some of our previous posts, which detail how actual data clearly show these kinds of stories and predictions to be highly misleading.

Inside Higher Ed published a feature today detailing an ongoing process that has 27 universities, US and abroad, competing for a gift of land in New York City plus $100 million in exchange for the creation of a new tech-centered campus. Several New York based universities are submitting proposals, due in October, but notable universities from elsewhere such as Stanford and Chicago are also competing for the opportunity, as well as universities based in other countries.

As pointed out in the article, New York already has 110 institutions serving over 600,000 students. However, engineering and tech programs in the region have lacked the success and reputation that the city would like. While institutions with an existing presence in NYC or in the region may make more sense as a partner in this project, Stanford appears to be aggressively pursuing the opportunity, touting its role in the creation of Silicon Valley in California. If successful, this would be Stanford’s first campus outside of Palo Alto.

The absence of public universities on the applicant list is stark. Purdue is the only one. However, this is perhaps unsurprising given the billions of dollars likely required to build a fully operational campus from scratch in a short period of time, and the state-centered history of public institutions in the US.

For the lucky institution with the right amount of resources, this will hopefully be a great opportunity with long lasting effects for the institution and the city of New York. For all of higher education, it will be fascinating to see if this kind of partnership between government and  institutions can work to create a new, physical campus that can quickly produce innovation and education while building and maintaining a reputation for excellence.