Office of Planning and Budgeting

The US Department of Education’s Stats in Brief from October 2011 entitled “Borrowing at the Maximum” investigates the percentage and demographics of students who take out federal subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford loans, and how this has changed over time. The report also seeks to differentiate between those who take out the program maximum loan amount and those who take out their personal maximum amount (adjusted for their financial need and the cost of their education). Some interesting findings include:

  • the proportion of borrowers has increased significantly over time, from 27 percent of students receiving federal Stafford loans averaging $7,200 (inflation adjusted) in 1989/90, to 46 percent borrowing an average of $10,300 by 2007/08.
  • 43 percent of those borrowing in 2007-08 took out the program maximum Stafford loan amount, while 60 percent took out their personal maximum amount (which can equal the maximum amount for some).
  • 30 percent of those taking out Stafford loans also took out private loans, whereas only six percent of students not taking out federal loans did. Furthermore, 16-18 percent of the parents of those students borrowing through the Stafford program also took out Parents PLUS loans.
  • Students taking out Stafford loans to help finance their education were less likely to have full-time jobs.
  • 73 percent of students who took out Stafford loans also received grants.

To read more about the findings or methodology of this report, check out the full report here.

The Times Higher Education/Thomson Reuters World University Rankings for 2011-12 were released today and the University of Washington ranked 25th, one of only five public US institutions to make the top 25 (UC Berkeley was the highest ranking US public at 10).

US News and World Report recently ranked the UW 42nd among all national universities in the US, while the Academic Ranking of World Universities ranked the UW at 16.

These rankings help to validate the world class teaching, research and service that take place here at the UW every day. However, it is good to cast a critical eye on the business of ranking universities in general, and this column published by Inside Higher Education does a great job of summarizing some of the questions we should always ask of such ranking endeavors.

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

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 National Association of State Student Grant and Aid Programs (NASSGAP) has published their Annual Survey Report on State-Sponsored Student Financial Aid.

The new report, based on 2009-10 survey data, shows that while state support for institutions has fallen rapidly for several years, many states have increased their commitment to students via financial aid. On average, state spending on financial aid increased 3.8 percent between 2008-09 and 2009-10. For many states, increases in financial aid were necessary to help maintain student access as steep budget cuts for institutions necessitated significant increases in tuition.

Note that the survey does not contextualize increases in spending on financial aid with tuition increases, nor does it specifically address changes in financial need for students during the Great Recession. Inside Higher Ed addresses some of these issues in their report on the survey.

The survey also shows that while most state spending on financial aid continues to be in the form of need-based grants ($8.9 of $10.8 billion was spent in the form of grants), state spending on merit-based or mixed merit and need based financial aid programs continues to increase. The survey shows that 47 percent of all state aid to undergraduates is need-based, while 18 percent is merit-based, and 35 percent is tied to programs with both need and merit-based components.

CUPA-HR salary survey data, analyzed by Inside Higher Education, shows that, similar to faculty members, median pay for senior and mid-level administrators at public institutions of higher education was flat in 2010.

At private institutions, members of all three categories showed modest gains of between 1 and 2 percent, contributing to a growing gap between pay at public and private institutions.

The SHEEO State Higher Education Finance report for FY 2010 was released last week. Unsurprisingly, it confirms that the same general pattern in Washington of deep state cuts to higher education funding coupled with steep tuition increases is being replicated in states across the US.

Report Highlights: National Trends

Nationally, on average, state support for public high education per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student declined by about 7 percent between 2009 and 2010, and, at $6,454 per student, is at its lowest level in 25 years. The reports notes that average increases in net tuition revenue of 3.4 percent per student partially offset these budget cuts.

These cuts comes at a time when enrollment continues to grow partly due to more citizens seeking out higher education during the economic crisis. Nationally, enrollment grew by 15 percent between 2005 and 2010. Even when state and federal and increased tuition support manage to stay whole or increase, the report notes that increasing enrollments continue to erode per student funding levels over time.

The report highlights the importance that state support continues to play in education related spending by public institutions even as tuition revenue rises. They acknowledge that this importance is sometimes obscured by the complex finances of large institutions that have many other (non-fungible) funding sources.

Ultimately, SHEEO purports that public and policymaker values are consistent with continued public support for higher education, and they are hopeful that investment will rise again once state budgets stabilize and improve.

Report Highlights: Washington State

SHEEO presents the following averages for Washington State higher education for the 2005-2010 period:

  • 12th in increased enrollment in public higher education (19.2%).
  • 30th in appropriations per FTE.
  • 40th in percent of net tuition revenue as percent of total education revenue.
  • 40th in total educational revenue per FTE.

These numbers are a testament to the comparatively low tuition rates enjoyed by WA residents combined with lower than average state appropriations.

Read the full report for more data, analysis, and methodological details.

Were you surprised to learn in the Chronicle of Higher Education this week that, in 2008, the UW received over $19,500 in state appropriations per student, the second highest rate in the country? Well, so were we!

Office of Planning Budgeting staff worked with the Chronicle to clarify that they were not reporting state appropriations per student, but what the Delta Cost Project calls the overall educational ‘subsidy’ enjoyed by students, which includes state appropriations but also other revenues such as gifts and endowment income.

The Chronicle agreed to revise the text of their chart to match the measure they were actually reporting, and they also wrote up an accompanying article to explain why the revision was important, using the UW as an example. Please read our brief for more detail and links to the revised publications.

We don’t think the overall ‘subsidy’ figure that DELTA produces by looking at IPEDS finance survey data is a very useful one when comparing institutions on education related funding per student, nor do we think that 2008 funding levels tell us much about where public flagship institutions are now, but it is very important that the Chronicle narrative now matches the data and the chart is no longer misleading.

Kiplinger has released their 2010-11 list of the top 100 values in public higher education. Coming in at 10th, the UW again ranks very highly.

Having also ranked 10th in 2008-09, the UW moved up to 7th in 2009-10, but fell this year after another 14 percent increase in undergraduate resident tuition.

We’ve previously mentioned the new book Why Does College Cost So Much? by two economists from the College of William and Mary, Robert Archibald and David Feldman. The authors have made a compelling argument that increasing higher education costs are not the result of institutional dysfunction, but of broader economic forces.

Read our summary of this book, and let us know what you think about their evidence, their conclusions, and their policy recommendations.

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