As financial markets improved, selective private colleges saw their cash and investments increase faster than their operating budgets in the 2004 fiscal year, reversing the pattern of the year before. But except at the very top tier of institutions, the colleges' debt rose even faster, as they poured money into expanding and renovating facilities, Standard & Poor's said in a report released this month.
As they waited Thursday morning for the House of Representatives higher education subcommittee to vote on legislation to extend the Higher Education Act, lobbyists for for-profit and nonprofit colleges had strikingly different answers to the simple question "How are things going?"
Bruce D. Leftwich, vice president for government relations at the Career College Association, responded with an enthusiastic "Great, great." David S. Baime, who plays the same role for the American Association of Community Colleges, offered an uncertain "I have no idea."