SREB Fact Book on Higher Education, 2011
The SREB Fact Book on Higher Education is one of the nation's most comprehensive collections of comparative data on higher education.
For decades, state leaders, policy-makers, researchers and journalists have used the Fact Book to find useful data quickly and to learn more about long-term trends and developments in SREB states and across the nation. The 2011 edition now expands on that tradition.
The 2011 Fact Book includes data on the population and economy, enrollment, degrees, student tuition and financial aid, faculty and administrators, revenue and expenditures. More than 90 tables provide detailed information on colleges and universities in SREBstates, plus other regional and national data. In all but the specialized cases of data based on SREB's regional survey, figures for each of the 50 states and District of Columbia presented geographically are available, except for unique items from the SREB-State Date Exchange.
Highlights from its findings are below.
Accepting the College Completion Challenge
Educating the Increasingly Diverse Population to Ever Higher Levels
Changes in the who and where of America’s students will have a profound impact on public education as we head
toward 2030. More than half of the nation’s population growth in the initial decades of the 21st century is projected
to be in the 16 SREB states. By 2030, this one region is expected to grow by almost 30 million people and to account
for nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population, with the most dramatic increase among Hispanic residents.
Hispanic public high school graduates are projected to account for 27 percent of the SREB region’s public high
school graduates by 2019. Non-white students are expected to account for more than half of the graduates in eight
SREB states — and for at least 57 percent in four. Only one other major U.S. region has a higher estimate of future
minority graduates: the West at 59 percent, with four states topping 70 percent.
Helping this rising tide of more diverse graduates move from high school into postsecondary study will be a key
goal for state leaders nationwide. The United States (particularly the SREB and Western regions because of their
accelerated diversification) is being challenged as never before to increase higher education attainment and regain lost
ground in a global environment where we are no longer the top nation. In 2008, the United States fell to third (with
41 percent) behind both Canada (49 percent) and Japan (43 percent) in the percentage of working-age adults with
associate’s or higher degrees.
The nation’s changing demographics increase the difficulty of maintaining the decade-by-decade improvements
in higher education attainment that have been our history. The reality is that the fastest-growing racial and ethnic
groups, including African-Americans and Hispanics, generally have lower education attainment levels. In 2009, for
example, 27 percent of white adults ages 25 and older in the SREB region had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast,
17 percent of black and 14 percent of Hispanic adults had at least a bachelor’s degree. Progress has been made
since 2000, however. The rate rose about 3 percentage points for white adults and black adults and 2 percentage points
for Hispanic adults in the region. But will recent improvements be sufficient to help today’s younger generation of
students achieve higher education attainment levels than their parents and compete internationally? For all regions,
the outcome depends on actions by today’s state leaders.
Although gaps remain, some enrollment and graduation trends are promising.
The college-going rate of Hispanic young adults 18 to 24 years old was 10 percentage points lower in 2009 than
the rate for black young adults in the same age group: 27 percent compared with 37 percent. White and Asian young
adults of those ages had significantly higher college-going rates: 45 percent and 65 percent, respectively.
More promising is the fact that enrollment growth from 2004 to 2009 was led by women and minority students.
Women accounted for more than half of college enrollment growth in the SREB region and for almost half of the
region’s total increase in bachelor’s degrees. The enrollment of black students in the region rose 27 percent — well
above the 21 percent rate for all students. The number of Hispanic students rose 44 percent in SREB states. Despite
these increases, black students still accounted for only 16 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded in 2009 — and
Hispanic students, only 9 percent.
Graduation rate gaps also persist. The SREB states’ 150 percent of normal time (six-year) graduation rates for
bachelor’s degree recipients in 2009 were 62 percent for Asian students, 57 percent for white students, 45 percent for
Hispanic students and 38 percent for black students. Since large percentages of these graduates were transfer students
at the colleges granting their degrees, special attention to articulation and transfer policies is warranted.
College affordability is a major factor in boosting completion and participation.
College costs are an increasing challenge for students from middle- and lower-income families. While students in
SREB states, on average, pay less to attend college than their peers nationwide, the gap in costs compared with other
regions continued to narrow from 2005 to 2010. Tuition and fee levels at public four-year institutions in the SREB
region reached 91 percent of the national average — up from 88 percent five years earlier. Among major regions, only
the West had lower median annual tuition and fees. Median household income in the SREB region over the same
period stayed at about 86 percent of the national level. As a result, college costs are taking a larger share of household
The portion of annual household income needed for a student to attend a U.S. public university for one year has
risen significantly for students from middle- and lower-income households in recent years. Nationwide, students from
middle-income families ($49,500 average annual income in 2010) used the equivalent of 22 percent of family income
in 2000 to pay for one year of tuition, fees, room and board at a public university. The costs climbed to 34 percent
of family income by 2010. For a family in the lowest fifth of incomes ($11,500 average annual income), one year at
a public university for one child in 2010 cost the equivalent of 145 percent of annual income — a significant jump
from 90 percent in 2000.
Demographics and affordability collide.
The percentages of households considered low income were highest for those racial and ethnic groups with the
fastest-growing student populations. (Low income is defined here as income less than 125 percent of the poverty level
in 2009.) That year, 32 percent of black households were low income, as well as 30 percent of Hispanic households
and 13 percent of white households.
Recent pressures on state budgets have scaled back appropriations or reduced increases during the current economic
downturn. This makes it increasingly difficult for colleges and universities to hold back tuition increases and
meet rising operational costs. Tuition and fee revenues continue to rise faster than state and local appropriations at
public colleges and universities. State appropriations for the SREB region’s public four-year colleges and universities
decreased 8 percent or $1.3 billion from 2008 to 2010, and tuition and fee revenues went up 17 percent or $2.2 billion.
During the same period at public two-year colleges, state and local appropriations rose by 3 percent or $256 million,
and tuition and fee revenues went up 21 percent or $764 million. When combined, these funds amounted to a
9 percent increase for two-year colleges and a 3 percent increase for four-year colleges. Combining funds and adjusting
for inflation, per student funding fell 9 percent at public four-year colleges and universities and 12 percent at public
The “net price” after scholarship and grant aid for in-state undergraduates at public four-year colleges and universities
in the SREB region in 2009 was $15,900. More than half of that year’s bachelor’s graduates left college with a
debt averaging $18,700.