About Us

The Delta Cost Project

The need for a college education is more important than ever, but the barriers to obtaining a degree continue to mount as a result of rising tuition costs and dramatic declines in state support for higher education. With all eyes on college affordability, the Delta Cost Project at American Institutes for Research (AIR) makes a unique contribution to the dialogue by focusing on how colleges spend their money. We believe college spending can be contained without sacrificing access or education quality.

The Delta Cost Project provides policymakers, higher education administrators, and the general public with analyses and resources to deepen understanding of what colleges do with their money. Our team focuses on four key questions:

  • Where does the money come from?
  • Where does the money go?
  • What are tuitions paying for?
  • What is the relationship between spending and outcomes?

The answers to these questions provide insight into the challenges and opportunities we face as we strive to improve higher education affordability and accessibility in the United States.

In January 2012, AIR took over the analytic work of the Delta Cost Project. The National Center for Education Statistics is maintaining the Delta Cost Project’s database as part of its Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). IPEDS conducts annual surveys gathering information from every college, university, and technical and vocational institution that participates in the federal student financial aid programs.

American Institutes for Research

Established in 1946, AIR is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization that conducts and applies behavioral and social science research both domestically and internationally in the areas of education, health, and workforce productivity.

AIR’s expertise in finance extends from postsecondary to K–12 and early childhood education. Our staff analyzes school finance policy; conducts large-scale studies of resource allocation in education at the federal, state, and local levels; provides expert testimony in school finance litigation cases; and conducts studies of teacher labor markets.