The Student Services function represents the third category of General Operating Expenditure (GOE).
Student Services costs encompass two distinct components – Services (covering all the services provided to support students, including those focused on student mental health), and Scholarships & Bursaries component (the funds dispensed for merit- or need-based financial support).
When it comes to Scholarships & Bursaries, another university fund (outside of General Operating) comes into play – the Special Purpose and Trust Fund (SP&T). This fund accounts for income that the universities receive with conditions attached to its use. One of these “special purpose” inflows is money specifically prescribed to go to Scholarships & Bursaries; this money forms a major share of Scholarships & Bursary funding at some universities, less so at others.
The chart below shows the change across the Top 25 since 2001 in “Real Dollars” (adjusted for both inflation and enrollment). Included in the chart, for comparison purposes, is the universities’ income from “Other Fees” – compulsory non-academic fees levelled on every student; many of these fees are charged with the specific purpose of funding Student Services. Positive values denote increases exceeding inflation and enrollment combined:
Top 25 Change Overview (Inflation-adjusted):
- Expenditure on the Student Services function averaged $87 million in 2022 – up 197% since 2001 (50% since 2010). It now accounts for 10.7% of total GOE (6.9% in 2001, 9.0% in 2010).
- Expenditure on the Services component averaged $38 million in 2022 – up 182% since 2001 (40% since 2010). It now accounts for 4.7% of GOE (3.4% in 2001, 4.2% in 2010).
- Expenditure on the Scholarships & Bursaries component in Student Services averaged $49 million in 2022 – up 206% since 2001 (60% since 2010). It now accounts for 6.0% of GOE (3.5% in 2001, 4.7% in 2010).
- Scholarships & Bursaries in both GO and SP&T averaged $68 million in 2022 – up 206% since 2001 (59% since 2010).
- Other Student Fees income averaged $42 million in 2022 – up 206% since 2001 (46% since 2010). They now account for 5.2% of Total GO income (3.4% in 2001, 4.5% in 2010).
To add perspective to the above numbers, average enrollment has increased by 57% since 2001 (21% since 2010).
The point was made in the Resource Allocation Topic that the much higher level of expenditure on Student Services is funding vital tools for ensuring student wellbeing, and that that this has undoubtedly been a literal life saver.
The Rankings show that some universities have yet to make that level of commitment in this crucial area. That might not be a major issue if their student associations are highly active in this area, but if that’s not the case there are some discussions to be had.
In the other direction, it could be argued that some may be spending more in this area than they arguably need to spend. Average Top 50 expenditure on the Services component (i.e., excluding Scholarships & Bursaries) was 5.0% of GOE in 2022, but there were numerous schools in the 7%-11% range. Doubtless, the money was well spent, but it was also money that won’t reach the classroom, so those universities may need to work with their student associations to find the right balance. Part of that process needs to ensure that any freed funding does reach the classroom.
The underlying methodology for the tables below can be seen HERE. Each table opens in a new tab.