Follow the Dollar

Revenues and Expenses at Public Colleges and Universities

If we want to begin addressing the root causes of the college affordability problem, we need to look under the hood of institutional finances and "follow the dollar":

Where do colleges get their money from, and how do they spend it?

In this paper, we look at publicly available data on core revenues and core expenses for public colleges and universities in Massachusetts, New Jersey, South Carolina, and Virginia. We examine the different sources of institutions' core revenues and the distribution of their core expenses by functional classification. To see how things have changed in the past five years, we looked at data for fiscal years (FY) 2012 and 2017. Finally, to make the concept of revenues and expenses easier to explain, we convert the figures to cents on the dollar. We think public colleges and universities should be more strategic and intentional about their revenues and expenses. We hope this paper helps start conversations about how institutions make and spend money to better ensure educational quality and student success.