A Wall Street Journal analysis looking at two decades’ worth of financial documents found that spending at flagship institutions has soared even as state support has contracted nationally.
The newspaper analyzed audits, archived websites and documents obtained through public records requests for the 2002, 2012 and 2022 fiscal years for institutions in all 50 states. The report found that spending climbed by 38 percent at the median flagship university between 2002 and 2022.
Only the University of Idaho saw a decrease in spending over that time period.
Spending increases were largely fueled by increased revenue from tuition and fees, with costs for the average student going up by 64 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The newspaper found that for every $1 decline in state support at the institutions it analyzed, the median university “increased tuition and fee revenue by nearly $2.40, more than covering the cuts.”
Factors driving spending up include investments in luxurious amenities and increased personnel expenses—particularly at the administrative level and for athletics, the analysis found. College officials also pointed to increased costs in areas including student services, technology, academic support, mental health and facility maintenance. Some noted the role inflation has played in driving up operational costs in recent years, while other sources questioned the fiscal discipline of colleges they believe are “devouring money.”