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Economy Continues to Hurt Colleges; Tuition Raised

Top college administrators' outlook on the economy and the plight of their institutions is fairly pessimistic, a new survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education and Moody's reveals.

When nearly 500 college chief financial officers were asked about the economy, less than one third were more optimistic than a year ago, and 39 percent were more upbeat about the financial prospects of their own schools.

To cope with lagging state funding and stretched resources, two-thirds of the CFOs surveyed reported raising tuition and fees by 3 percent to 6 percent for the upcoming year—and 21 percent raised those charges by 7 percent or more.

The tuition hikes weren't as large at private colleges, where 63 percent of administrators said tuition increased at their institutions by 4 percent or less, the report found.

If CFOs could use other strategies to improve their economic picture, without having to worry about the consequences, the top response (38 percent) was to increase teaching loads for faculty, followed by raising tuition (19 percent), eliminating tenure (17 percent) and hiring more adjunct faculty (11 percent).

To reduce expenses, 18 percent of CFOs said layoffs on campus were "somewhat likely," but 60 percent said it was "very unlikely" that their institutions would make layoffs in the coming year. Nearly 39 percent were very or somewhat likely to implement a hiring freeze on nonfaculty positions as a cost-cutting measure, according to the survey. Just over 50 percent of the CFOs said it was very unlikely that they would freeze hiring of faculty members and adjunct professors this academic year.

The outlook among community college administrators was generally less optimistic than those from other institutions, with the likelihood of hiring and salary freezes greater at the two-year schools.

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