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New NCES Report Documents Trends in Public College and University Revenues and Expenditures

May 13, 2011

According to the Digest of Education Statistics, total operating revenue at public four- and two-year colleges and universities grew from $246.2 billion in FY06 to $267.4 billion in FY09. An increasing share of the revenue came from tuition and fee payments. Total tuition and fee revenue at public colleges grew 24 percent, while state grants and contracts increased only 3 percent. (Comparable revenue data for private non-profit colleges and universities are not available).

In the same time period, total operating expenditures rose 20 percent, from $219.1 billion to $262.8 billion. One of the largest increases occurred in expenses for scholarship and fellowship aid to students, which rose nearly 30 percent. These increases in expenditures occurred at the same time as full-time equivalent student enrollment at public institutions rose from 9.5 million to 10.8 million, and state appropriations (operating and non-operating) received by public institutions fell from $68.4 billion in FY08 to $65.5 billion in FY09.

Other important trends noted by the Digest include:

  • The number of bachelor’s degrees conferred by four-year public colleges and universities increased from about 955,000 in 2006 to 1.2 million in 2009. 
  • In FY09, roughly 78 percent of the first-time, full-time, degree-seeking first-year students at four-year public colleges and universities received some type of financial aid.
  • The total number of instructional faculty at all public colleges and universities rose from about 841,000 in 2005 to nearly 914,000 in 2009.

Free copies of Digest of Education Statistics, 2010 may be obtained from the NCES Web site.


Ken Redd
Director, Research and Policy Analysis