No one knows just how damaging coronavirus will be on the US and global economies. But it has already officially caused a recession and significantly changed the nature of many economic sectors. Coronavirus has financially impacted colleges across America in numerous ways. Many American colleges are now facing uncertain financial futures. This news can seem worrying to prospective students. Luckily, it’s possible to assess which colleges are well equipped to navigate the coronavirus economy by analyzing how they coped with the 2007-2009 financial crisis. This article does exactly that.
Many prospective students may not remember the 2007-2009 financial crisis. It’s understandable, as most of today’s prospective students were children when the crisis occurred. But the Great Recession, as it has come to be known, impacted the education sector in the US and the world profoundly. For instance, state support for public colleges in America decreased by $3.7 billion from the 2007-8 to 2008-9 academic years alone. And philanthropic donations to colleges also decreased significantly during this time, contributing to even the wealthiest college in the world, Harvard University, losing 30% of its endowment.
But of course, colleges in the US survived the 2007-2009 financial crisis. They will also survive the coronavirus crisis. Some colleges, however, will have to make changes that negatively affect the students that enroll in future years. In the Great Recession, many colleges were forced to significantly raise tuition and cut services on offer to students. Others were able to weather the storm without making students’ lives more difficult. Naturally, colleges that overcame the financial hardships of the Great Recession can adapt their approaches to the coronavirus recession. And these colleges have been highlighted in this article.
Any one of the 30 colleges below is a fine choice for a student who wishes to attend a college that will not compromise on its education and support of students, even in times of financial crisis. However, it’s also possible that none of the colleges in this article are right for you. If that’s the case, then this article can still be a vital resource for your college search. Each entry includes a summary of how the college responded to the Great Recession and what it is doing now. These have been included so that you can compare and contrast the highlighted colleges with your own college choices. If any of the colleges you’re considering responded to the Great Recession/is responding to the coronavirus recession in a similar way to the 30 below, then that’s an indication that they’re colleges worth attending during uncertain times.
The initial research in this article consisted of consulting articles that examined how colleges adapted to the 2007-2009 financial crisis. It then examined the colleges highlighted in these articles to ensure that they are rising to the challenges of the coronavirus recession.
The sources we used for this research are as follows:
The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Great Recession Was Bad for Higher Education. Coronavirus Could Be Worse: https://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Recession-Was-Bad/248317
U.S. News, The Great Recession’s Toll on Higher Education: https://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2010/09/10/the-great-recessions-toll-on-higher-education
The New York Times Magazine, Students of the Great Recession: https://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/09/magazine/09fob-wwln-t.html
The National Bureau of Economic Research, How the Great Recession Affected Higher Education: https://conference.nber.org/conferences/2012/GRHEf12/summary.html
Lumina Foundation, College Costs, Prices And The Great Recession: https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED555862.pdf
The ranking of the colleges below has been sorted with the following criteria: Low increases in tuition during the Great Recession, evidence of managing finances responsibility, evidence of saving money in ways that did not harm education and evidence of implementing innovative cost-saving measures.
Our ranking, from 30 to one, is below:
30. Texas Christian University
Fort Worth, Texas
From 2008 to 2012, tuition fees at Texas Christian University only rose modestly, with the largest increase being $2,400 from the year 2010 to 2011. The National Bureau of Economic Research elaborates somewhat on the financial strategy of the college, noting that they determine endowment payouts by carefully weighting the dollar amounts of the college’s spending with higher education price inflation. And in May 2020, Texas Christian University’s chancellor announced a series of budget cuts that should keep tuition fees increasing modestly in the future. These cuts were to coaching and executive salaries, hiring of new positions, employee retirement benefits, and more.
29. Delgado Community College
New Orleans, Louisiana
During and after the Great Recession, Delgado Community College kept tuition increases low thanks in part to a 55% increase in enrollment. Lumina Foundation states that the college was able to raise tuition by $845 from the 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 academic years, despite a 20% cut to appropriations over a similar timeframe. In 2020, the college has implemented a bold new measure to increase enrollment once again. It has eliminated its non-resident tuition fee, meaning that all students will be charged $2,040 instead of the $4,184 that out of state students would have paid. Delgado Community College is also freezing hiring and non-essential purchasing.
28. Central Oregon Community College
Central Oregon Community College was able to keep its tuition and fees at essentially the same level during and after the Great Recession, Lumina Foundation reports. While the college saw a 23% cut to appropriations, it also saw an 87% increase in enrollment, the source also notes. For the proposed 2020-2021 budget, Central Oregon Community College aims to implement a range of cost-saving measures. It has frozen non-essential hiring and spending, laid off 200 part-time employees, furloughed 38 employees and offered employees a voluntary separation option.
27. Northampton Community College
The New York Times Magazine notes that, like many community colleges, Northampton Community College saw a large increase in enrollment during the Great Recession due to its lower costs and shorter degree lengths. The college was able to rapidly accommodate this larger student body, by finding extra space for classes in empty mall stores and church basements. In 2010, the college itself stated that while it was strained by the influx of students, it maintained its commitment to have a “personal touch” and student-centered focus. The same statement also noted that during the Great Recession, the college was able to fund-raise a significant amount of money. Northampton Community College has not yet released a statement on how it will budget around the coronavirus recession, but it has already secured $3.01 million from the CARES Act to help students.
26. Hagerstown Community College
From the academic years 2007-2008 to 2011-2012, Hagerstown Community College was able to increase its appropriations by 2%. It also saw a 33% increase in enrollment. By 2013, the college had only increased its tuition and fees by $163. In 2020, the college is aiming to boost the US workforce by using its saved up money to benefit students who are likely to attain a degree quickly. Hagerstown Community College’s Foundation has launched a program that offers former students who did not complete a four-year degree to attain an associate degree free of charge, provided that the students are residents of college’s county or border counties in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
25. University of California, Merced
In June 2020, University of California, Merced completed, “the largest public-private partnership social infrastructure project in US history.” This was a 1.2 million gross square foot expansion of the college campus, at a cost of $1.3 billion. This completion means that the college now has significantly more campus space to accommodate socially distanced teaching. One day after this completion, the college’s interim chancellor announced to the campus community that there would be, “essential austerity measures,” implemented across the college. During and immediately after the Great Recession, University of California Merced managed to handle its finances reasonably well. It saw an increase in appropriations of 132% and an increase in enrollment of 177%. From the 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 academic years, it saw a rise in tuition and fees of $5,191, according to Lumina Foundation.
24. Columbus State Community College
During the Great Recession, Columbus State Community College kept tuition increases below those of other two year colleges in Ohio, Lumina Foundation reports. The college remains committed to providing its education at an affordable level while switching its activities to remote learning. For instance, the college has purchased 600 Chromebooks for students who had no computers at their homes. To date, Columbus State Community College has been awarded almost $6.3 million in government coronavirus relief funding, half of which will go to students.
23. California State University, Long Beach
Long Beach, California
Despite a decrease in enrollment of 9% and a cut in appropriations of 24% from the academic years 2007-2008 to 2011 to 2012, California State University, Long Beach only rose tuition by $2,617 over this period of time, according to Lumina Foundation. This decrease in enrollment was a budgetary consideration. It allowed the college to not have to provide fewer resources to more students. In 2020, California State University, Long Beach has already been able to attain a significant about of coronavirus relief funding. To date, it has been given $41.7 million from the federal government.
22. Georgia State University
From the 2007-2008 to 20012-2013 academic years, Georgia State University only increased its tuition by $2,112, despite a 24% reduction in appropriations, Lumina Foundation states. In 2020, the college has had to plan for a 14% reduction in state funding. The college’s leadership team is implementing the successful budget reduction measures from the Great Recession for the current crisis. These include eliminating vacant positions, reducing staff, implementing a furlough system, limiting new hiring, limiting travel/events, and offering a voluntary separation program for retirement-age employees.
21. University of Southern Indiana
The board members of the University of Southern Indiana are taking a step-by-step approach when it comes to budgeting for the coronavirus recession. In May, the college announced that it had approved an interim budget for the fall of 2020. This budget ensured that all faculty and staff members would be fully compensated up until the end of 2020, in an effort to reassure these employees of their immediate financial security. Further budgets for the rest of the academic year will likely reflect the US and state economic outlook at later dates. The University of Southern Indiana was able to restrict tuition and fee increases to just $1,411 between the academic years 2007-2008 to 2012-2013, Lumina Foundation notes.
20. Mount Hood Community College
Thanks to some clever budgeting, Mount Hood Community College has been able to avoid a $2.8 million deficit for the year 2020-2021. It has done this by decreasing spending in areas that are least likely to impact student success. For instance, the college plans to eliminate 25 full-time positions, however, “all but two of the positions were vacant at the time of elimination.” From the academic years 2007-2008 to 2012-2013, Mount Hood Community College only increased its tuition by $1,008, despite a 40% cut in appropriations and a flat enrollment rate, according to Lumina Foundation.
19. Portland Community College
From the beginning of the Great Recession to the academic year 2012-2013, Portland Community College only raised its tuition by $291. This was possible in part because of a 57% increase in enrollment, which offset a 23% decrease in appropriations, according to Lumina Foundation. In June 2020, Portland Community College’s Budget Committee adjusted the college’s budget up until 2021. It cut $15,248,302 from its planning and capital construction fund. It also noted that it was able to gain $6,269,372 from the federal government and $210,000 from private sources to provide financial aid to students.
18. Yale University
New Haven, Connecticut
The National Bureau of Economic Research notes that the Yale Investments Office is in charge of managing Yale University’s endowment. In June 2019, the Yale Investments Office had grown the college’s total endowment to over $30 billion. Over the last decade, this office’s investment program had “added $7.1 billion of value relative to the results of the mean endowment.” This office should be able to manage the college’s endowment responsibly during the coronavirus recession. Additionally, Yale University has been preparing for a potential recession for years. In 2019, the college’s leadership team even tasked every school and unit to create a strategy for coping with significant losses in funding.
17. Granite State College
Concord, New Hampshire
As a college that works primarily via online courses, (with supplemental in-person courses and one on one support,) Granite State College already had a curricular model that many colleges across the world are now adopting. During the Great Recession, the college coped well. It saw a 45% increase in enrollment from the 2007-2008 to 2011-2012 academic years, Lumina Foundation states. Thanks to minimal cuts in appropriations, the college also only raised its tuition by $977 from the start of the recession to the 2012-2013 academic year.
16. Indiana University East
Thanks to Indiana University East being a leader in online education, the college is likely to adapt well to a wider degree of remote teaching during the 2020-2021 academic year. This confidence in online courses will be beneficial in the long run of the coronavirus recession, as it is likely that colleges that excel in remote education will become more popular. During the Great Recession, Indiana University East enjoyed a 61% increase in enrollment. It also had only minor cuts to appropriations. Because of these factors, the college increased its tuition by just $663 from the academic years 2007-2008 to 2012-2013.
15. Fresno City College
During the Great Recession, Fresno City College saw its enrollment numbers rise to 25,000, The New York Times Magazine states. The college is well placed to accommodate another surge in enrollment, even with social distancing procedures. The fall semester of 2020 will be primarily online, with practical courses being hybrids of online and in-person events. And to accommodate state funding budget cuts, Fresno City College’s president is preparing a revised budget for 2020-2021. Already, the college has put a freeze on non-critical hiring. Each vice president is also developing budget reduction plans.
14. State University of New York College at Plattsburgh
Plattsburgh, New York
Due to very low cuts to appropriations during and after the Great Recession, State University of New York College at Plattsburgh only raised its tuition and fees by $868 from the 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 academic years, Lumina Foundation states. The State University of New York System has provided guidance to all of its colleges in regard to budget management during the coronavirus recession. SUNY College at Plattsburgh has responded to this budgetary guidance by suspending all non-critical expenditures; requiring all critical expenditures to be approved by deans, the college vice president and the college president; requiring purchase requisitions for all expenses; and pausing all hiring.
13. University of Oregon
In the Great Recession, budget cuts to California colleges benefited University of Oregon, which saw applicants from California rise from 4,600 to 7,000, according to U.S. News. From the 2007/8 academic year to the 2009/10 academic year, in-state tuition and fees at the college only rose from $5,526 to $6,260. In this same timeframe, out of state tuition and fees rose from $17,598 to $19,355. In 2020, University of Oregon does not know if it will benefit from a similar increase in enrollment to help offset costs. But even if it does not, it is currently planning to mitigate any financial damage with progressive pay reductions.
12. Valencia College
Lumina Foundation notes that during the great recession, Valencia College remained committed to minimal tuition fee increases. This commitment was due to the college’s foundation as a community college, which later expanded into four-year degrees. For the coronavirus recession, Valencia College has already secured $27.6 million in federal funding to deal with the financial impacts. $13.8 million of this funding will go to students, with the rest being used by the college itself. The college is also in the process of re-budgeting for future years. In April, it announced that some courses will decrease lab fees, while others will raise them.
11. University of North Carolina, Pembroke
Pembroke, North Carolina
While the University of North Carolina system has scaled back its state budget request for the next two years in the wake of coronavirus, University of North Carolina, Pembroke is still in line for generous amounts of state funding. For instance, the institution’s College of Health Sciences is still scheduled to gain $1 million in funding. Additionally, in June, the college was awarded another $1 million in funding to research and fight coronavirus. And if that weren’t good enough, then the college has also received $6.2 million in federal funding for coronavirus relief. Lumina Foundation also notes that during the Great Recession, University of North Carolina, Pembroke was able to maintain some of the lowest tuition fee rises in the State of North Carolina.
10. University of Maryland, College Park
College Park, Maryland
From 2006 to 2010, University of Maryland, College Park only raised its tuition by around $400, states U.S. News. This low rise in costs is impressive, as the college had to cope with a $48 million cut in state funding. It was able to achieve this low tuition rise thanks to falling back on its cash reserves, making staff members take an unpaid furlough, cutting athletic budgets and leaving job openings vacant. In 2020, University of Maryland, College Park is enacting a similar plan. It has suspended all faculty and staff hiring and is getting every division to plan on reducing the rate of expenditures and to delay any nonessential expenditures.
9. Florida State University
From the 2007-2008 academic year to the 2012-2013 academic year, Florida State University only raised its tuition and fees by $2,704 despite a 22% cut to appropriations, according to Lumina Foundation. In 2020, Florida State University is in a better position than in 2007. For instance, in 2013, Florida’s state legislature designated the college as a preeminent university, and in 2019 U.S. News ranked it as America’s 18th best public university. Thanks to these designations and rankings, the college’s recurring revenues increased from $300 million from 2007-2008 to $400 million in 2018-2019. Already, the college has been able to secure $29.3 million in coronavirus relief funding from the government.
8. Houston Community College
The federal government has so far allocated Houston Community College $28,294,391 in coronavirus relief funding. The college has a strong track record of appropriating funding, even in times of financial difficulty. For instance, from the 2007-2008 to 2011-2012 academic years, instead of seeing its appropriations cut, the college instead saw a gain of 4%. From the start of the Great Recession until the 2012-2013 academic year, Houston Community College only increased its tuition and fees by $152, Lumina Foundation reports. Luckily, since the Great Recession, the college has also formed a range of partnerships with government departments and private companies that have boosted funding and resources even further. These include the US Department of Labor, the Consulate of Mexico, Sony, CVS, and more.
7. Arizona State University
U.S. News states that the students at Arizona State University were instrumental in encouraging Arizona’s citizens to vote for the government to maintain funding for the college. Lumina Foundation reports that from the 2007-2008 to 2012-2013 academic years, tuition at the college rose $4,245. For the coronavirus recession, Arizona State University has already managed to secure a substantial amount of relief funding. The Department of Education gave the college approximately $63.5 million, the largest amount given to any college in America. And over half of this funding will be used to help students in the form of emergency cash grants. Much of this money will not be released to students until at least the fall semester, as the college is currently helping students out with money that it had previously saved up.
6. Rio Salado College
As Rio Salado College is a member of the Maricopa Community Colleges system, it is part of a network that is “fiscally sound and had adequate reserves to meet future contingencies.” However, the college system is being cautious with its members’ expenses. For the 2020-2021 academic year, Rio Salado College’s expenses will be decreased by 2.3%. During the Great Recession until the 2012-2013 academic year, Rio Salado College only increased its tuition and fees by $101, thanks to only seeing a 2% decrease in appropriations and a 17% increase in enrollment, according to Lumina Foundation.
5. The Ohio State University
During the 2008 to 2009 academic year, The Ohio State University was able to hold down tuition increases thanks to the support from its state government. Over that academic year, the college’s leadership was also able to prepare for the long term consequences of the recession, saving $94 million. Thanks to this work, students that were currently admitted and entering in the fall of 2009 benefited from guaranteed financial aid in proportion to tuition increases, increased emergency loan funding, increased assistance in securing financial aid and more. Thanks to The Ohio State University’s commitment to resource stewardship, the college was in a strong financial position at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. It had managed to achieve over $1 billion in new resource generation from 2015 to 2020. The college has also instituted a hiring pause, a faculty/staff annual merit compensation pause, and an off-cycle salary increase pause. It is also assessing all of its capital projects to see how hundreds of millions of dollars can be deferred from these. Lastly, The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that The Ohio State University kept tuition affordable during and after the Great Recession.
4. Purdue University
West Lafayette, Indiana
The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that Purdue University went to great lengths to keep its tuition affordable to all students during the Great Recession. For instance, in 2009, the college ensured that West Lafayette Campus state resident students only had to pay an additional $388 in tuition a year for the next two years. For non-state resident students, this sum was an additional $1,394 per year for the next two years. This translated into a 5% increase and a 6% increase respectively. There were also fee increases, however, first-time Indiana undergraduate students were able to get these fees rebated. That year, the college also launched, “more scholarships and financial aid than ever before,” to help students afford college. To keep tuition rises so low and offer more funding opportunities during difficult financial times, Purdue University decided to use government stimulus money to fund only one time expenditures. On top of this, the college used aggressive cost-cutting measures such as flatlining supply and expense budgets. It also ruled out merit salary adjustments for all of its employees. In 2020, Purdue University signed off on a budget that shifted millions in funding to COVID-19 safety. Best of all, the college also committed to not increasing tuition fees until after the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. To ensure that the college is able to afford these measures that help students, the college has reduced nonessential spending, such as “deferring merit increases, reducing travel and purchases, deferring repair and rehabilitation expenses, and instituting a hiring freeze.”
3. Frostburg State University
During the 2007-2009 recession, Frostburg State University tried out budget reducing innovative teaching methods with success. For instance, U.S. News notes that the college’s Introduction to Psychology class was reshaped to one demonstration heavy lecture per week, and then students attended a computer lab where software helped them learn. Naturally, teaching arrangements like this can be adapted to social distancing. During the Great Recession, the college successfully managed to increase the amount of financing from state appropriations from $29,667,299 per year in 2007 to $32,765,066 in 2009, becoming less reliant on tuition fees as a result. On June 15th, Frostburg State University stated that it expected its tuition, fees, and meal plans to remain at 2019-2020 levels, thanks to careful budgeting.
2. Thomas Edison State University
Trenton, New Jersey
Despite a 69% reduction in appropriations between the 2007-2008 academic year to the 2012-2013 academic year, Thomas Edison College only raised its tuition and fees by $662 during this time, according to Lumina Foundation. It was able to balance this loss of funding due to a 23% increase in enrollment. In 2020, Thomas Edison State University announced that tuition fees are actually going to decrease in the 2020-2021 academic year, from $3,963 to $3,579 for full-time in-state students. The college is well placed to handle the impacts of coronavirus. It is an institution primarily for adults that are older than the average student. Because of this older student body, the college is more flexible than many others in America, allowing students to finish their degrees, “anytime, anywhere.”
1. Oakland Community College
Bloomfield Hills, Michigan
When it comes to budgeting for the future, Oakland Community College is in a strong place. Previously, the college had won an award for Best Practices in Community College Budgeting from the Government Finance Officers Association’s Distinguished Budget Presentation Awards Program. The college recently released its budget and financial forecast for the years 2021-2025. The new budget projection shows that the college’s operating budget revenues for 2020 were $165,974,201. It also predicts a 2.7% tuition rate increase every year from 2021 to 2025. During and immediately after the Great Recession, Oakland Community College only rose its tuition and fees by $235, despite a 21% decrease in appropriations and a 21% decrease in enrollment, Lumina Foundation reports. This decrease in enrollment may sound like a negative, but it does show that the college can successfully budget around a shrinking enrollment, which may take place during coronavirus.
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