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Colleges Spending More on Recreation

WASHINGTON, DC -- The share of spending on recreation facilities at American colleges is rising faster than the share of spending on instruction, according to a report released last week by the Delta Cost Project.

Private research universities increased spending on instruction by 22 percent over the decade studied, while spending increased 36 percent for student services, which includes recreation facilities, intramural athletics and recruitment.

Spending at public research universities rose 20 percent for student services, while spending for instruction rose by 10 percent. Spending on students services increased 9.5 percent, even at community colleges, versus a 3.4 percent increase in spending for instruction.

The report, called “Trends in College Spending 1998-2008,” examined national college spending from 1998 to 2008, the most recent year for which data was available. Delta Cost Project is a nonprofit organization that advocates keeping college affordable by controlling costs.

Average tuition rates rose 45 percent at public research universities over the decade studied and rose 36 percent at community colleges. At private research universities, tuition rates rose about 21 percent.

Study authors found that college tuitions are not increasing because spending is going up, but because of cost-shifting. They noted that instead of cutting spending in the face of revenue declines, such as decreased funds from state subsidies, colleges are shifting expenses to students in the form of higher tuitions. Private research universities were the exception to this practice.

“In the next decade, we are going to be lucky to hold onto the resources we have,” Jane Wellman, executive director of the Delta Cost Project, said in a statement. “That means that all institutions—from the Ivies to the community colleges—are going to have to develop investment strategies that support goals for attainment. That will require new habits: looking at spending, and promoting the values of efficiency and cost effectiveness as co-partners to the never-ending search for new revenues.”

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