Office of Planning and Budgeting

In 2009, the National Research Council received a request from Congress for a “report that examines the health and competitiveness of America’s research universities vis-à-vis their counterparts elsewhere in the world”.

Responding to the request, the NRC assembled a 22-member panel of university and business leaders and mandated them to identify the “top ten actions that Congress, the federal government, state governments, research universities, and others could take to assure the ability of the American research university to maintain the excellence in research and doctoral education needed to help the United States compete, prosper, and achieve national goals for health, energy, the environment, and security in the global community of the 21st century”.

The panel released its final report last week under the title Research Universities and the Future of America: Ten Breakthrough Actions Vital to Our Nation’s Prosperity and Security. The following were the strongest themes:

  • State and federal governments must increase their investment in research universities, allow these institutions more autonomy and agility, and reduce their regulatory burden: The panel identified the state and federal governments as the key actors in the strategy it proposed; indeed, seven of its ten recommendations were primarily aimed at them. In one of its more ambitious statements, the panel recommended that states should strive to restore and maintain per-student funding for higher education to the mean level for the 15-year period 1987-2002, adjusted for inflation. In Washington, this translates into recommending a per-FTE funding increase of between 70% and 80%. The panel acknowledged that this could be difficult to implement in the near term given current state budget challenges and shifting state priorities, but nevertheless stressed that “any loss of world-class quality for America’s public research institutions seriously damages national prosperity, security, and quality of life.”

  • Strengthen the role of business and industry in the research partnership: The panel recommended that tax incentives be put in place to encourage businesses to invest in partnerships with universities both to produce new research and to define new graduate degree programs. It also encouraged business leaders and philanthropists to help increase the participation and success of women and underrepresented minorities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

  • Research universities should strive to increase their cost-effectiveness and productivity: The panel recommended that universities should “strive to contain the cost escalation of all ongoing activities […] to the inflation rate or lower through improved efficiency and productivity”. However, it made no mention of the difficulties raised in the previous NRC report on productivity concerning the impact of cost-reduction measures on quality.

The panel’s recommendations are not novel: they have already been made by multiple parties in the higher education sector over the last few years. However, given the weight of the signatures on the report, this document may prove useful in raising the profile of higher education in upcoming budget battles both at the state and federal level.

At the beginning of the economic downturn in late 2008, a higher than expected number of Americans turned to higher education, leading to a 7.1 percent increase in college enrollment for 2009. This phenomenon is typical of recessions as many need to refresh their qualifications and/or increase their skill sets when faced with a volatile job market. A new NCES report finds that while enrollment increased again in 2010, it went up by at a more modest rate, 2.8 percent. Some other interesting findings from the latest NCES data include:

  • For first-time freshmen, one-year retention rates were 72 percent for full-time students, but only 44 percent for part-time students.
  • Public four-years got 19 percent of their funding from tuition dollars, while private non-profits and for-profits relied on tuition for 33 percent and 91 percent of their revenues, respectively.
  • The average six-year graduation rate for full-time students across all four-year schools, public and private, was 58 percent in 2004.
  • In 2009-2010, 82 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduates received financial aid. Of those students receiving grant aid, the average net price (sticker price minus grant aid) of attending a public 4-year university was $10,200 (the net price was $16,700 at private non-profits and $23,800 at private for-profits).
  • Men made up a slightly higher proportion of enrollments in 2009 than they did in 2008, 42.8 percent versus 42.6 percent respectively.

To take a look at the report and data, click here. Find additional analysis in this Inside Higher Ed article.

A new report put out by the National Science Foundation examines math and science education at the elementary, secondary and post-secondary level. In general, the news is sobering: elementary and secondary proficiency in science and math is languishing below 40 percent nationwide. Chapter 8 of the report focuses on state indicators, featuring state-by-state breakdowns of science and math education. Important indicators include the number of Bachelor’s degrees conferred, the proportion of degrees in science and engineering (S&E) fields, state expenditures on higher education, and the prevalence of S&E jobs in the workforce. Interesting findings include:

  • In 2009, 1.6 million bachelor’s degrees were conferred in the United States, up 29 percent since 2000. Of these degrees, more than 501,000 were in S&E fields. In Washington State, 32.9 percent of degrees conferred were S&E degrees.
  • During 2010, the annual sticker price for a public 4-year education was $15,014, which represents a 43 percent increase since 2000 (after adjusting for inflation). This does not represent net price, since this number does not include financial aid.
  • In 2009, undergraduate education at a state institution consumed 35.7 percent of a Washington resident’s disposable income. Note that this number does not account for the 20 percent tuition hike in 2010.
  • State funding for major public research universities per student enrolled in 2000 was $10,107, which dropped to $8,815 in 2009.
  • In Washington, 32.5 percent of 25-44 year olds hold a bachelor’s degree.
  • 5.83 percent of Washington’s residents in 2009 were employed in S&E fields, up from 5.16 percent in 2000.
  • Washington has one of the highest rates of patents awarded per worker in S&E occupations in the US—28.2 patents per 1000 S&E workers.

The report indicates that research is flourishing and that Washington is increasingly awarding more degrees in S&E fields, but also that state funding for higher education and affordability have decreased dramatically. We will explore this report more in future posts. To read more about the report, check out the Higher Ed Chronicle post or read the full report.

New OPB Brief

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This week, UPenn’s Institute for Research on Higher Education (IRHE) released a report assessing the state of higher education policy in Washington State. While satisfactorily describing the key facts and long-term trends and potential future problems for higher education in Washington State, the report is somewhat unrealistic in its recommendations. It seems to assume that, absent any change in state funding trends, policymakers can dramatically alter educational attainment via structural changes in governance.

Read the latest OPB brief for more information.

A new report by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce finds that higher education is becoming increasingly integral to earning a middle class wage. The Center predicts that, in 2018, while there will still be jobs for high school dropouts and workers with only a high school degree, good jobs for these candidates will be scarce and an associate’s degree, and for many, a bachelor’s degree will be necessary.

The report seeks to paint a picture of the likely employment landscape in 2018, including those job fields (or “clusters”) that are expected to be growing and pay higher wages. It further analyzes what educational qualifications jobs in that cluster will require, finding that upward mobility for workers without higher education will be difficult to achieve—most workers do not stay in the same job for very long and most higher-paying jobs require more education, not simply more experience. Other key findings include:

  • In 2018, 37 percent of jobs are expected to require a high school diploma or less. Of these jobs, however, only one third will pay over $35,000 a year (defined here as the Minimum Earnings Threshold necessary to enter the middle class) and will be concentrated in the areas of Transportation, Distribution and Logistics, Architecture and Construction, and Manufacturing. The higher paying clusters are also heavily male-dominated, making higher education even more determinant for women seeking higher paying employment.
  • Completing any degree significantly improves a worker’s job prospects and earnings. 54 percent of workers with an A.A .degree earn more than $35,000 a year, as do 69 percent of workers with B.A.s and 80 percent of workers with M.A.s.
  • Health Sciences, Information Technology, Law, Public Safety, Corrections and Security are career clusters defined by this report as High Wage, High Demand, and High Skill. This means that wages are higher than the average wage, employment is growing quickly (more than 10 percent expected between 2008 and 2018), and most workers in these industries hold a postsecondary degree.

To read more about the report, refer to the Executive Summary or the Full Report. Also see the Chronicle of Higher Education’s article on the topic.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce released a report that investigates the importance of American science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) positions in the US economy and the perceived shortage of qualified STEM workers to fill them. The report finds that, contrary to popular belief, America already has enough students studying STEM related fields to potentially satiate the demand for STEM workers in the economy without seeking talent from abroad. However, they hold that a process they label ‘diversion’ redirects many students majoring in STEM fields toward employment in non-STEM areas because their professional interests and values do not correspond with traditional STEM jobs. The Center estimates that 43 percent of students that graduate with STEM majors immediately choose non-STEM jobs. It also finds that many high school students capable of entering STEM majors, as measured by their math SAT scores, choose not to because of their preferences or values.

The Center also provided some interesting statistics on the present and future of STEM professions, including:

  • Wages in STEM fields are, on average, higher than wages in other fields (no matter what level of educational attainment), though healthcare and professional and managerial occupations still have higher wages
  • Women and minorities are still underrepresented in STEM jobs, with women constituting only 23 percent of STEM workers. Women and minorities also make less than Caucasian men in STEM positions, though the wage gap is smaller than for other occupations.
  • STEM jobs will grow to represent 5 percent of the labor market in 2018.
  • Two thirds of STEM jobs will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher by 2018.

To read more about this report, check out the Executive Summary or the full report. Also note Inside Higher Ed’s discussion of the report and our previous blog posts on Georgetown Center reports:

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.

Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce has published a report entitled “The College Payoff” which calculates the lifetime median earnings of workers at various levels of educational attainment. As could be expected, the more degrees a worker has, the more they will earn, on average, in their lifetime. This holds true even for workers with different degrees in the same jobs: An accountant with an associate’s degree will make $1,636,000 in their lifetime, while earnings for the same position rise to $2,422,000 for a worker with a bachelor’s degree, and to $3,030,000 for those with a master’s degree. Other notable findings included:

  • Holding a Bachelor’s degree results in a median lifetime income of $2.8 million, 84 percent higher than a worker with a high school diploma
  • Workers with a professional degree make almost four times as much as workers without a high school diploma in their lifetimes ($3,648,000 versus $973,000)
  • Women working full-time, full-year make 25 percent less over their lifetimes than men with the same level of educational attainment. In order to make more than a man with a bachelor’s degree, a woman must hold a doctoral or professional degree.
  • Latinos make on average 34 percent less than white workers, African American workers make 23 percent less, and workers of other races and ethnicities (Native American, Pacific Islander) make 22 percent less. Asian Americans, however, make roughly the same amount as white workers.

To read more about the report, check out Inside Higher Ed’s analysis: “Degrees of Wealth.” Also read our previous blog posts about the Center’s two preceding reports on this same topic: Help Wanted, and The Undereducated American.

Education Sector, an education policy think tank, recently released a report entitled “Debt to Degree,” which measures the ratio of student and parent, government-backed loans taken by students to the number of credentials awarded by an institution per year.  Based on this, the report concludes that:

  • Across all institutions and sectors, for each degree awarded in 2008/2009, $18,102 was borrowed
  • Degree to credential ratios varied considerably across institution types:  On average, families at four-year public institutions borrowed $16,247 per degree, compared to $21,827 at private four-years, and $43,383 at for-profit schools
  • Among elite research universities, Princeton, with its no-loan financial aid policy, had the lowest debt to credential ratio ($2,385), while NYU had the highest ratio ($25,886), due to its small endowment and less wealthy student body
  • Washington state has one of the lowest borrowing to credential ratios in the nation, with debt to degree ratios in the $5,000 to $9,999 range

Note that the study excluded private loans and Perkins loans, which some argue might mask even larger debt burdens, particularly at for-profit schools where institutional financial aid is limited. To read more about the study, including its limitations, check out the Chronicle’s and Inside Higher Ed’s articles.

A new study, released by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center sheds light on enrollment patterns before, during, and after the Great Recession. According to the report, enrollment increased steadily from 2006 to 2009, and then decreased by 1.6 percent in 2010. The authors attribute this finding largely to a decrease in state funding for institutions, which led to significant tuition increases at many public colleges causing some middle-income families reevaluate their higher education plans.

In the West specifically, where 90 percent of students are enrolled at public colleges and universities, enrollment dropped from 467,000 students in 2009 to 455,000 in 2010. Interestingly, the West has the highest proportion of students at community colleges, with 50.8 percent attending public two-years. Furthermore, Western public four-year universities had the highest rates of retention and persistence in their region (retention being the percentage of freshmen that return to the institution the next fall, and persistence the percentage that continue their education at some higher education institution the next year), with rates of 73 percent and 85 percent, respectively.

For a more detailed discussion of the findings and limitations of the study, check out Inside Higher Ed’s summary here.

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