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PEDAR: Executive Summary Study of College Costs and Prices, 1989-89 to 1997-98
Goals and limitations of the study
Study design and methodology
Findings and conclusions
Changes in tutition and other revenue sources over time
Changes in expenditures over time
Relationships of tuition changes with changes in revenues, expenditures, and other factors
Patterns in financial aid
Relationship of tuition changes with financial aid patterns
Usefulness of statistical models for testing relationships among revenues, costs, expenditures, and prices
Research Methodology
Full Report (PDF)
Executive Summary (PDF)
Goals and limitations of the study

Phase I had two major goals:

  1. to address the questions raised by Congress insofar as possible given currently available information; and

  2. to examine the usefulness of existing statistical models for testing the relationships among revenues, costs, and prices in higher education.

The study is limited in its ability to provide specific answers to many of Congress’ questions for several different reasons, not all of which could be changed in future research. The use of existing data, models, and institutional classification schemes restricted the ability to focus on certain aspects of costs and prices. For instance, institutional differences in types of students served and in program and discipline mix make it difficult for classification schemes to allow generalization across institutions. As a result, the comparison groups are formed of institutions that may not be truly comparable.

In addition, currently available national data are not sufficient to address many questions, reflecting the fact that institutions often do not collect the data required to answer questions about the relationships among prices, revenues, and expenditures. These data concerns are further complicated by several factors, including the absence of consistent definitions for terms such as technology, tuition discounting, and merit aid; the lack of uniformity in defining capital costs; and the lack of consistent institutional accounting conventions. There are differences between the accounting standards used for public and private not-for-profit institutions, which are particularly relevant to the measurement of capital costs. Public and private not-for-profit institutions are subject, respectively, to standards from the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB). Recent changes to both sets of standards may improve the data collected by NCES, but it will take several years until all changes are implemented at the institutional level.

Despite these limitations, currently available national data can be used to describe and analyze aggregate trends in costs, prices, and revenues for groups of institutions, as well as to examine the strength of various relationships among these factors. Such analyses can improve and expand upon previous national studies and address some of the issues raised by Congress in the 1998 HEA Amendments.

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