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Revenues inch up

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Community colleges were one of few exceptions to the overall decline in total revenues across higher education in fiscal year (FY) 2015.

There was an overall decrease of 6.1 percent, compared to a 1.2 percent uptick in community colleges’ total revenues from the previous year, according to a new federal report. The only other sectors with an increase in total revenue were private non-profit two-year and less-than-two-year institutions, whose revenue increased by nearly 50 percent and 37.1 percent, respectively. However, combined they represented less than one percent of total revenue for both fiscal years.

Public four-year institutions saw a 2 percent decrease in total revenue between FY 2014 and 2015, according to the preliminary data from the U.S. Education Department. Their total revenue of about $279 billion, however, was still almost five times that of public two-year institutions ($57 billion) in fiscal year 2015. Private institutions – not-for-profit and for-profit – lost about 12 percent each in total revenue.

Uptick in state funding

These data show a 4.2 percent increase in state appropriations for community colleges. This compares to a 3.9 percent increase for public four-year institutions, although the actual amount received was about three-and-a-half times that of community colleges.

Public institutions, particularly community colleges, rely on significant contributions from state appropriations. State appropriations have increased incrementally in the past few years following considerable drops during and in the wake of the great recession.

Focused on instruction

On the expenses side, public two-year colleges spend the most on instruction — 43 percent of total expenses, compared to 29 percent at public four-years and 32 percent at private, nonprofit four-year colleges.

At public two-year colleges, spending on academic support, student services, institutional support, and scholarships and fellowships also comprise a larger portion of total expenses than at public four-year colleges, the data show. Again, they are similar to the previous year’s figures.

Enrollment trends

In addition to institutional revenues and expenditures and academic libraries the ED data show how community colleges compare to public and private four-, two- and less-than-two-year institutions in enrollment and employees for fall 2015. The data supports findings from other studies of a continued decline in overall enrollment. Undergraduate enrollment across higher education and at public two-year colleges in particular dipped by 1.7 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.

In fall 2015, students at community colleges comprised 36 percent of total undergraduate enrollments, about the same as for the previous year. In comparison, graduate enrollment grew by about 1 percent. Community college advocates note that the decrease is, in part, due to the improved economy and more available jobs, which is prompting older students to choose work over college.

The decrease in enrollment spans across full-time and part-time student, men and women, and among all races. Only the Hispanic/Latino enrollment at public two-year institutions bucked the trend and saw a 3 percent increase.

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