at the University of Delaware

Higher Education Consortia Awarded Research Grant from the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association

January 31, 2024


The Higher Education Consortia (HEC) was awarded one of six research grants from The State Higher Education Executive Officers Association (SHEEO). SHEEO is funding research projects with the immediate goal of advancing understanding of equity-based funding, defining funding adequacy and inequitable funding, and providing states with actionable, evidence-based solutions to help close equity gaps in public institution funding. HEC’s proposed research focuses on investigating the program- and institution-level cost drivers that explain within-discipline variation in instructional costs at four-year public colleges and universities.

As the price of college tuition continues to rise, higher education institutions and their governing bodies are facing intense pressure to fully understand and explain how tuition revenue is being spent on their campuses. Of particular interest is the cost to the university to deliver an education to its students. However, even when accounting for disciplinary differences and typical benchmarking characteristics (such as the Carnegie Classification of the institution or the highest degree offered in the program), there is still considerable within-discipline variation in instructional costs. Using program-level instructional cost and productivity data, combined with publicly available institution-level data, HEC aims to establish a better understanding of how programmatic and institutional characteristics can drive instructional costs at the program level at four-year public institutions.

The research will commence in early 2024 with final papers due on January 12, 2025. As an awardee of the grant, HEC will also be invited to present the findings from the research at various SHEEO convenings, including the Equity Funding Partners meetings in spring 2025.

HEC is organized under the guidance of managerial and analytical staff in the Institutional Research and Effectiveness office at the University of Delaware and is composed of a diverse group of four-year, nonprofit colleges and universities that contribute data to The Cost Study at UD. In addition to producing annual data reports and analyses for institutions that participate in The Cost Study, HEC collaborates with numerous higher education organizations and academic researchers to lead the conversation on cost and productivity at the academic program level. HEC also receives guidance from the Higher Education Consortia Advisory Board, a group of highly qualified leaders in higher education, including representatives from HEC member institutions, on improving The Cost Study’s data quality and security, maintaining the highest ethical standards regarding accuracy and integrity of data use, and contributing to the advancement of data innovation in institutional effectiveness and data use among senior leadership at institutions of higher education.