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SREB Fact Book on Higher Education, 2013

Susan Lounsbury
Director, Education Data Services
(404) 879-5546

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 2013 edition now expands on that tradition.

The 2013 Fact Book includes data on the population and economy, enrollment, degrees, student tuition and financial aid, faculty and administrators, revenue and expenditures. More than 100 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.

The College Completion Challenge

Educating the Increasingly Diverse Population to Higher Levels

Education progress is harder than ever given changing demographics.

As SREB states launch their Challenge to Lead 2020 Goals for Education, they know their economic and social health depends on the ability of public education to serve their changing student population. Between 2012 and 2022, the SREB region is expected to grow by almost 13.4 million people and to become more than 38 percent of the U.S. population, with a particularly dramatic increase among Hispanic residents.

By 2020, Hispanic public high school graduates are projected to account for 25 percent of the SREB region’s total and white graduates will constitute less than half. Only one other major U.S. region has a higher estimate of future non-white graduates: the West, at 56 percent, with four of its states topping 60 percent.

Preparing the more diverse high school graduates to move successfully into the postsecondary world of study and productive careers is a vital goal for state leaders. The United States is being challenged as never before to increase higher education attainment and to regain lost ground internationally — where the United States is no longer the top nation. In 2010, the United States fell to fourth place, with 42 percent of working-age adults with associate’s degrees
or higher, behind Canada with 51 percent, Israel with 46 percent and Japan with 45 percent.

The nation has historically maintained decade-by-decade improvement in education attainment, which had been a driving force behind economic success and social progress. But changing demographics will increase the difficulty of sustaining these gains. The reality is that the fastest-growing racial and ethnic groups taken together, including black and Hispanic adults, have lower education attainment levels. In 2011, 28 percent of white adults ages 25 and older in the SREB region had a bachelor’s degree or higher. In contrast, 18 percent of black and 15 percent of Hispanic adults had at least a bachelor’s degree.

The future depends on today’s state and institutional leaders staying well informed about changing demographics and trends in student progression through the education pipeline and taking appropriate actions to ensure that attainment gaps are closed.

Enrollment and graduation trends are promising.

The SREB region has made good progress in education attainment since 2000. The percentage of adults with bachelor’s degrees or higher has risen 3 percentage points for white adults, 4 percentage points for black adults and 3 percentage points for Hispanic adults in the region. Will these improvements be sufficient to help today’s younger generation achieve higher education levels than their parents and compete internationally?

In 2011, 36 percent of black young adults 18 to 24 years old, 35 percent of Hispanic young adults, 42 percent of white and 60 percent of Asian young adults were enrolled in college. In 2006, however, the college-going rate of Hispanic young adults was 9 percentage points lower than the rate for black young adults. The college-going rate for Hispanic young adults increased 11 percentage points from 2006 to 2011.

More promising is the fact that minority students led enrollment growth from 2006 to 2011. The enrollment of black students in the region rose 33 percent — well above the 23 percent rate for all students. The number of Hispanic students rose 54 percent in SREB states. That amounts to 679,600 more black and Hispanic students, compared to 301,900 more white students over the same period. In 2011, black students accounted for 17 percent of the bachelor’s degrees awarded, and Hispanic students, 10 percent.

The challenge ahead is brought home by persistent gaps in the graduation rates of the various groups of students. The SREB states’ six-year graduation rate for bachelor’s degree recipients in 2011 was 65 percent for Asian students, 58 percent for white students, 48 percent for Hispanic students and 38 percent for black students. Large percentages of these graduates were transfer students at the college that granted their degrees, demonstrating the importance of improved articulation and transfer policies. If colleges and universities are not able to close the gaps in graduation rates, the gaps in education attainment will persist.

College affordability is a major factor in boosting completion and participation.

College costs are also an increasing challenge for students, particularly those from middle- and lower-income families. Students in SREB states pay less to attend college than their peers nationwide: 94 percent of the U.S. median in 2011-12. But in 2011, median household income in the SREB region was 85 percent of the U.S. average. As a result, college costs consume a larger share of household income in the SREB region.

The portion of annual household income needed for a student to attend a public four-year college or university for one year has risen significantly in recent years for students from middle- and lower-income households. Nationwide, in 2001-02, students from middle-income families used the equivalent of 22 percent of family income to pay for one year of tuition, fees, room and board. The costs climbed to 34 percent of family income by 2011-12. For a family in the lowest fifth of incomes, one year at a public university in 2011-12 cost the equivalent of 149 percent of annual income — a huge jump from 91 percent in 2001-02.

Demographics and affordability collide.

There are more low-income households among the fastest-growing racial and ethnic student groups. In 2009, 32 percent of black households were low income, as were 30 percent of Hispanic households and 13 percent of white households.

Recent revenue shortfalls in state budgets have adversely affected state appropriations for colleges. Colleges and universities have had greater difficulty meeting rising operational costs without tuition increases. Tuition and fee revenues rose 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 12 percent ($2 billion) from 2008-09 to 2011-12, and tuition and fee revenues went up 27 percent ($4 billion). During the same period at public two-year colleges, state and local appropriations fell slightly ($13 million) and tuition and fee revenues went up 43 percent ($1.7 billion). When combined, these funds amounted to a 15 percent increase for two-year colleges and a 6 percent increase for four-year colleges. But, recognizing enrollment growth and adjusting for inflation, per-student funding fell 7 percent at public four-year colleges and universities and 9 percent at public two-year colleges.

The bottom line is that in 2010-11 the net price in-state undergraduates at public four-year colleges and universities in the SREB region had to pay after scholarship and grant aid was $10,600; this price was 9 percent or $800 more than in 2008-09. At public two-year colleges, net price remained $6,100 after scholarship and grant aid.

These are the out-of-pocket dollars a student had to come up with from loans, savings, family contribution and employment to stay in college that year — an out-of-pocket cost that may not be affordable for a large and growing number of students. And yet, more of these very students are needed by the SREB states to earn postsecondary credentials or degrees in order to stay economically competitive and ensure progress in education attainment.

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