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Business and Policy Areas
Business and Policy Areas
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New Cost Measure Proposed by NCES; Comments Due December 1

October 23, 2003

Instruction expenses per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student, calculated on the basis of finance and enrollment data collected through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), might be added to an online database intended to help students and parents compare college prices. The searchable Web site, known as College Opportunities On-Line, or COOL , disseminates data on tuition and fees, room and board costs, and student financial aid.

In response to a perceived need for more institutional accountability and transparency in reporting college costs, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) has proposed adding the new measure, which is computed by dividing an institution's total instructional expenses by the total number of FTEs (undergraduates, graduates, and first professionals). The agency cites a report on The College Cost Crisis authored by Reps. McKeon (R-Calif.) and Boehner (R-Ohio), which says, “Americans believe that wasteful spending by college and university management is the number-one reason for skyrocketing college costs.”

Legislation introduced by Rep. McKeon October 16, The Affordability in Higher Education Act (HR 3311), would add this measure to others that NCES is already mandated to collect from every institution participating in the Title IV student aid programs.

The proposal explains how NCES would calculate the new measure, using data from several of the IPEDS surveys. NCES would impute data for institutions that did not respond to the necessary surveys. Where data was reported for systems rather than institutions, the agency would make allocations based on employee data from individual institutions.

Business officers and controllers have the financial expertise and analytical skills necessary to review and critique the NCES proposal. NACUBO urges members to provide comments by the December 1 deadline. It is important that this provision not be overlooked in the flurry of concern about other current proposals that would affect higher education institutions. Comments and concerns should be addressed to Cathy.Statham@ed.gov . Please provide a copy of any comments to Christine Larger at christine.larger@nacubo.org .


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