Higher education institutions continue to feel the financial squeeze, though the tools available to remedy budget gaps vary among public and private schools.
A TD Bank survey out today found financial executives at private colleges are worried about reduced tuition and fee revenue — the biggest financial concern of 72 percent of respondents. Meanwhile, 59 percent of respondents reported they were facing reduced private giving.
The survey found 68 percent of financial decision-makers planned to focus on boosting private gifts in the next year, and 61 percent said they will turn attention to falling tuition and fee revenue.
Public colleges and universities, however, are in a different situation. Facing the same rough economy and anemic state funding, public schools have had to rely on tuition increases to make up for budget gaps, said Paul Shelly, a spokesman for the New Jersey Association of Colleges and Universities.
But Shelly said tuition hikes can hurt a school’s competitiveness.
“We have a price advantage at the public colleges,” he said. “But if we raise tuition too much, it becomes unaffordable, and we start to lose that price advantage.”
As tuition costs rise, Shelly said, public schools run the risk of losing students not only to private schools, but to out-of-state public schools.
Shelly said public schools don’t have the same tradition of private fundraising that private schools do, though he said public schools are trying to improve in that area. One hurdle is that public schools have to create vehicles through which private individuals or organizations can give money to public schools without the fear that that money will simply be viewed by the Legislature as a replacement for state funding. He said that’s why donations often are dedicated to a specific aim, such as tuition assistance for low-income students.
Shelly said public schools have been searching for new ways to cut costs or raise additional revenue, such as pooling resources with other schools.
He also said schools like Rowan University, under the leadership of Ali Houshmand, have used adult continuing education programs to bring in critical new revenue.
“He brought in millions of dollars in revenue not by the regular degree programs, but by offering other professional education,” he said. “That’s worked for them.”
One line of commonality between public and private schools is the urge to go green. TD Bank’s private college survey found 77 percent of financial executives plan to invest in on-campus green energy or sustainability projects in the next year.
Shelly said public schools are doing the same thing, citing William Paterson University’s 3.5-megawatt solar project, and Richard Stockton College’s geothermal heat system.