U.S. institutions of higher learning are confronting a dramatically altered economic landscape. Over the past 30 years, the rising costs of higher education have been increasingly financed by personal debt rather than public investment. This trend was amplified when the Great Recession hit in 2008. The resulting fallout led to big cuts in state funding for education, and also reduced other key revenue sources such as endowments, donations, and bonding capacity.
While economic recovery is easing the shortfalls for some areas of the country, most states are still spending less on higher education than they were before the recession. Add to this a diminishing pool of prospective students, as well as growing pressure to hold down tuition and fees, and it’s clear that higher education must overcome some serious financial challenges in the years ahead. The situation is particularly difficult in terms of budgeting for new campus development. Traditional funding sources are no longer
sufficient to provide the facilities and amenities most institutions need to recruit the next generation of students and continue to fulfill their educational missions.
SmithGroupJJR brought together two groups of campus planning and finance professionals for roundtable discussions to consider the impact of higher education’s new financial order. These sessions took place during the Society for College and University Planning’s Mid-Atlantic Conference in Washington, DC, and at a regional forum held in Dallas, Texas. The participants represented a wide range of public and private institutions with diverse histories, missions and enrollment levels. The conversation covered major fiscal trends and challenges, and how different institutions are responding to them. The approaches that were shared reflect tough budgetary choices as well as promising new opportunities for partnerships and collaboration.
A paper summarizing the two sessions can be read here.