Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Local Economic Indicators

The Planet Money podcast from NPR has a running feature called "Today's Economic Indicator" (or something like that). It's a number plucked from wherever that's meant to be suggestive of something larger.

I've heard a number of good ones locally of late. My local economic indicators for Fall of 2009:

- usual utilization rate of work-study money on campus: 75-80%

- amount by which our work-study allocation increased this year: 50%

- this year's utilization rate for work-study money on campus: 100%

On the bright side, we're able to fill every work-study position on campus, including some long-neglected ones. (Every computer lab is staffed!) We've also vastly increased our work-study allocation for off-campus community service. On the down side, that's because we no longer compete with off-campus jobs. There aren't any. For most of our students, we're the only game in town.

- this Fall's total enrollment gain relative to last Fall: approx. 15%

- this Fall's tuition increase relative to last Fall: approx. 6%

- this Fall's increase in financial aid money relative to last Fall: slightly over 30%

The proportions tell a story.

- number of quarterly cuts we took in our public funding last year: 4

- number of quarterly cuts we've taken so far this year: 1 and counting

When you plan on a yearly cycle, and you sell a two-year degree if everything goes right, this cycle is devastating.

- proportion of our budget covered by state/local funding three years ago: half

- proportion projected by this July: one-third

Luckily, our students are wealthy, employed, and easily able to afford the difference. Oh, wait...

50% to 33%? Wow ... that is in the range of the cut state R1s took over a decade or so.

Curious on two counts: (1) Was that work-study increase due to "one time" stimulus funding? Have not heard of that locally, but perhaps it was how your state spent the money. (2) How much of that financial aid is generated locally, and what fraction of the increase was loans? (I know that isn't your usual territory, but it is relevant to the IHE audience and discussions here of the cost burden you refer to at the end.)

PS -
The way our college dealt with the quarterly cuts in an annual budget cycle was to plan for them in the annual budget. It was very painful but paid off at the end of the year.

Getting 66% of the budget from tuition doesn't match up with "lose money on every student", unless you generate that financial aid internally. You aren't in the 5% tuition territory of California CCs.
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