Relationship to BudgetBack to Table of Contents | Back to Findings
- Detailed budgetary information is only available for public universities.
- Total expenditures matter slightly more than total assets.
- Surprisingly, institutions spending more of their budget on public engagement and on instruction have a lower news volume.
Universities with larger budgets are able to engage in more research, sustain larger physical plants, and support outreach activities to raise visibility in their communities. Detailed budgetary information is only available for public institutions, and as with enrollment, data from the FY2007 IPEDS survey is used to approximate the institution's most recent financial standing.
Total assets, which include endowments, have a correlation of r=0.83 with news volume and r=0.86 with front page volume. Total expenditures, in dollars, have correlations of r=0.87 and r=0.91, respectively. Assets and expenditures are themselves strongly correlated at r=0.95, suggesting that universities with larger asset pools spend more, but that higher spending rates are slightly more important than total assets in garnering news coverage. Intuitively, this would make sense, in that the types of activities that might generate external visibility would likely require expenditures rather than simply holding those funds as assets.
Five breakdowns are used to stratify how institutions spend their money: percent spent on research, public service, physical plant, institutional support, and instruction. Public service expenditures include "activities established primarily to provide noninstructional services beneficial to individuals and groups external to the institution [including] conferences, institutes, general advisory services, reference bureaus, and similar services provided to particular sectors of the community [and] includes expenses for community services, cooperative extension services, and public broadcasting services." (IPEDS, 2007). Physical plant expenditures include those related to the expansion and service of the university's buildings, testing the hypothesis that those with larger infrastructure investments, such as laboratories, might garner greater coverage, while institutional support is measured to determine whether those with greater central infrastructures might be better able to coordinate media coverage for their university.
As a percent of total institutional expenditures, all areas other than research are negatively correlated with news coverage at r=-0.22 for public service, r=-0.21 for physical plant, r=-0.18 for instruction, and r=-0.17 for institutional support. Those institutions spending a greater portion of their budget on instruction or public service activities are therefore likely to have less national media coverage. Total dollars spent in each category paint a slightly different image, however, with research correlated at r=0.87, instruction r=0.81, institutional support r=0.71, physical plant r=0.67, and public service r=0.50.
Schools with larger budgets therefore gain greater news coverage in all categories but public service. Schools with greater raw expenditures on public service earn only modest increases in news coverage, while those devoting larger proportions of their overall budgets to such activities experience a net decline in coverage. This finding is puzzling, as it might be expected that institutions with more substantial engagement programs would generate greater visibility in the surrounding communities and more opportunities for their activities to be covered in the national news. However, under the "soundbite" model of education coverage, it is the number of high-stature faculty at an institution and their research expertise that matter more than the activities of the institution itself, and so such a relationship would make more sense.