Inflation for U.S. colleges and universities rose 2.7 percent in fiscal year 2021, which ended in June, according to Commonfund’s latest Higher Education Price Index (HEPI). The increase is a jump from last year’s 1.9 percent bump but falls in line with the five-year average of 2.6 percent.
The price index, released Thursday, is a more accurate measure of cost changes for colleges and universities than the Consumer Price Index and helps institutions project future budget increases that will preserve purchasing power.
Costs rose in all eight spending categories tracked by the HEPI, though the rate of increase fell in the faculty salaries, clerical costs and miscellaneous services categories. The sharpest increase in costs was in the utilities category, which rose by 15 percent during fiscal 2021, compared with a 15.7 percent decline in fiscal year 2020, when the pandemic drove many institutions to operate remotely. Supplies and materials also saw a significant change in fiscal 2021, with costs rising by 3.5 percent compared with a 3.5 percent decline in fiscal 2020.
Inflation varies somewhat by type of institution. Faculty salaries rose at a higher rate—1 percent—among public institutions, compared with no increase among private institutions.