ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

ACTA is an independent, non-profit organization committed to academic freedom, excellence, and accountability at America's colleges and universities.

  • Confronting the college cost explosion

    In recent decades, college costs have surged exponentially—and student debt has climbed to an all-time high. The fiscal model for private and public higher education is unsustainable, yet many institutions operate in a business-as-usual mode, simultaneously ramping up their tuition and increasing administrative spending year after year. Helping higher ed leaders gain transparent access to data on college spending is paramount in confronting the national crisis.

    ACTA’s HowCollegesSpendMoney.com is an innovative, user-friendly guide through the vast trove of information on college spending at nearly 1,500 institutions. It enables users to analyze spending patterns and compare their institutions to their peers.

    For over 10 years, ACTA has led calls for transparency and accountability in spending, and has provided university boards with guidance to address rising costs. Our work extends from identifying best practices for measuring efficient building utilization to technical advice on academic program review. We analyze growth in administrative spending in comparison to growth in spending on student instruction and help governing boards understand what questions to ask in deliberating upon and establishing institutional priorities.

    To learn more about how your college spends money, please visit HowCollegesSpendMoney.com.

    Press Release

     

    FAQ

    CRISIS BY THE NUMBERS

    Student loan debt has become the fastest growing segment of U.S. household debt. Students are often forced to make tough financial decisions in order to afford an undergraduate degree—many of whom struggle to find a good paying job once they have graduated.

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    1. Tuition for a four-year public institution is 213% higher than it was 30 years ago.
    2. Between 2008-09 and 2018-19, average published tuition and fee prices rose by $930 (in 2018 dollars) at public two-year colleges, by $2,670 at public four-year institutions, and by $7,390 at private nonprofit four-year colleges and universities according to College Board.
    3. Student loans have increased almost 157%, in the past 11 years, becoming the fastest growing segment of U.S. household debt—the total now stands $1.5 trillion.
    4. The average 2016 graduate with student loans is carrying over $37,000 in debt.
    5. Competition for less students is causing smaller schools to close or merge with other institutions.
    6. Moody’s Investors Service said that 25 percent of private colleges are running deficits. At state-run schools, revenue grew 2.9 percent while expenses grew 4.8 percent.
    7. College has become unaffordable for as many as 70% of working- and middle-class students, according to the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

    WHAT TRUSTEES ARE SAYING

    “To face down the rising costs of college, those of us who serve on governing boards urgently need solid data, better analytics, and more transparency.”
    Heidi Ganahl, regent, University of Colorado

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    “Unfortunately, I don’t think boards are as prepared as we need to be in order to address this crisis. That is why the website that ACTA is launching is so critical to helping us in this effort.”
    – Heidi Ganahl, regent, University of Colorado

    “One of the things that surprised me when I started as a trustee was how little financial information was being automatically disseminated. The school [Eastern University] may or may not agree, but I thought I contributed simply be saying, ‘Send us more information. We need to know more.’”
    – Bruce Brown, former trustee, Eastern University

    “I contacted ACTA to understand how to develop transparency. I do feel transparency was lacking [within the University of Hawaii System] and you cannot have public trust without transparency in how you’re spending money.”
    – Jan Sullivan, Chair, University of Hawaii System Board of Regents

    “For me right now, the issue is how much debt it takes to graduate, which I say is sinful. We need to look at that more carefully. How do we educate young people without them struggling to have a good quality of living once they have graduated because they are trying to pay the debt that educated them? That's a public issue as far as I'm concerned.”
    – Delores Brisbon, former trustee, Drexel University and Eastern University

    “One of the most important things we can do as board members is educate ourselves about what the actual expenses are and what the triggers are for these explosive increases in the cost of a degree. If we can get a handle on that, it’s the old saying, ‘You can’t manage what you don’t measure,’ then we can absolutely do all we can to decrease the costs and improve the value of our degrees.”
     – Heidi Ganahl, regent, University of Colorado

    Press Coverage of HowCollegeSpendMoney.com

    College spending comes under closer scrutiny

    The Hechinger Report
    February 01, 2019 by Delece Smith-Barrow |

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – We know that college costs are increasing, but what’s harder to find out is where the money is going.

    The American Council of Trustees and Alumni on Wednesday… Continue Reading >>

    PRESS COVERAGE OF ACTA & COLLEGE COSTS

    The ACTA Resources on College Costs

    How Much is Too Much?

    July 2017 by ACTA |  

    With recent research from the Institute for Higher Education Policy showing that college is unaffordable for as many as 70% of working- and middle-class students, concerns about college costs are mounting.… Continue Reading >>

    The Cost of Chaos in the Curriculum

    November 2015 |  

    ACTA's report The Cost of Chaos in the Curriculum reveals that the vast array of course choices given to college students is a cause of exploding costs and poor academic outcomes.… Continue Reading >>

    Getting What You Pay For?

    April 2014 by ACTA |  

    ACTA today released a report that finds the country’s leading public institutions fail students and the American people in several key areas. Continue Reading >>