When the recession hit in 2009 and colleges and universities saw many sources of funds contract, they did reasonably well making cuts to services that did not touch the academic core of the university, according to the latest annual report by the Delta Project on Postsecondary Education Costs, Productivity, and Accountability.
While revenues declined in most sectors of higher education in the 2009 fiscal year, the report found, most institutions managed to increase what they spent on instruction by making reductions in other areas and not imposing across-the-board cuts -- a departure from how colleges and universities have usually handled economic difficulty in the past.
The Delta Project’s report, now in its third year, attempts to provide a broad picture of the revenue that colleges take in and how they spend it. In addition to finding that colleges and universities protected the academic core, this year's report found that community colleges were the hardest-hit during the first year of the recession; that tuition increases at public universities were not enough to cover decreases in state funding; and that all types of institutions did a better job graduating more students and getting them to graduation with fewer extra course hours. In aggregate, the report paints a picture of colleges and universities approaching budget cuts in a fundamentally different way than they did in previous recessions.