Community colleges take biggest financial hit

Community colleges “took the greatest hit” in 2010 as higher education struggled to recover from recession, concludes the Delta Cost Project in College Spending in a Turbulent Decade.

All colleges and universities are trying to serve more students with less money, the report found. “As funding failed to keep pace with historic increases in enrollment, educational spending per student plummeted to its lowest level in a decade.”

Community colleges suffered the greatest financial hardships.

Historic enrollment increases, combined with sharp losses in per-student revenues from state appropriations and meager increases in net tuition revenue, resulted in significant cuts to academic spending per full-time equivalent (FTE) student. Community colleges concluded the decade spending less per student than they had ten years earlier.

State universities were able to preserve spending on instruction and student services, while private four-year institutions implemented widespread cuts, the report found. Although students covered a larger portion of educational costs, sharp tuition increases were not enough to offset lost revenues.

Funding for community colleges continued to fall further behind other public institutions. . . They were the only public institutions at which average total operating revenues per FTE student declined in 2010 and also were lower than a decade earlier. Community colleges suffered the deepest cuts in state and local appropriations per student in 2010, with funding reduced by approximately $1,000 per student; however, they  also limited the new money coming from net tuition revenue more than did other types of public institutions.

Efforts to keep community colleges accessible and affordable while accommodating more than 40 percent of new higher education students—often the most economically or academically disadvantaged—have significantly eroded the resources they have to devote to each student.

The growth in less costly, shorter-term certificate programs cut the cost of completion in community colleges from 2000 to 2010.