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Home > Summer 2001

Showing a healthy financial growth

Community College Journalist -- Summer 2001

Published: Tuesday, February 20, 2001
The financial status of student newspapers at community colleges across the U.S. showed a healthy growth pattern as these media operations moved into the 215'century.

Two-year college newspapers across the country are financially better off, with larger budgets and higher salaries for increasingly more editors and staff members at the end of the decade and century than they were earlier in the decade.

In an effort to ascertain pay scales and other compensation packages provided for two-year college editors and staff members, and to look at the financial picture of student newspapers at the close of the 20th century, a 36-question survey was sent to college and university newspapers listed in the l 996 Editor and Publisher Yearbook in the spring of 1999. Of the 257 respondents, 49 were from two-year public colleges; no two-year private colleges responded.

Demographics of Respondents

More than one half of those responding were at colleges with enrollments of 1,00l to 7,500; those with 7,501-15,000 were next with 18.4 percent, and 12.2 percent were at institutions with 15,001-20,000 students. There were no schools represented with fewer than 1,000 students, but five had more than 25,000.

Community college papers published less frequently in 1999 than in the 1992 survey, the results which were published in the Summer 1999 issue of the Community College Journalist. At that time 49 percent published in alternate weeks, the most common schedule; in 1999, that number declined to 42.9 percent. Those publishing monthly increased to 30.6 percent from l 6 percent in 1992. Weeklies also declined from 35 percent in 1992 to 26.5 percent in 1999. No two-year college papers publish daily.

More than three-fourths of the papers are tabloids, and most print eight or l 2 pages (35.4 percent each). Another 16.7 percent print 16; three print 20 and two run 24 or more.


Annual budgets for community college newspapers have grown considerably since 1992. At that time no paper had an annual income of more than $75,000. In 1999, two newspaper operations had $100,001-$250,000, and three had $75,001-$100,000.

More schools (41.7 percent) were still in the category of $ 10,001 - $25,000 than any other, but those with $10,000 or less declined from one third to 25 percent. Another 8.3 percent had $50,001 to $75,000 budgets annually, and 14.6 percent, $25,001-$50,000.

Sources of Funding

Student activities fees are the single largest source of revenue for community college newspapers, with more than half (53.1 percent) receiving 50 percent or more of their funding from this source; one-third (32.6 percent) receive 75 percent or more from these fees, and 8.2 percent are totally funded in this manner.

The next major revenue source is general college funds, with one-third (32.6 percent) of papers receiving half their revenue in this manner; 28.4 percent receive 75 percent or more from these funds and 12.2 percent, 100 percent.

Advertising does, however, play a role in the two-year college newspaper's revenue base; 18.3 percent receive half or more of their funds from ads, and two papers generate 75 percent or more of their income from this source.

Salaried Positions

Fewer than half of all editors and managers on two-year college papers receive salaries. Percentages range from more than half for top editors to a low of 8.2 percent for classified advertising managers. However, in the case of all but the campus/assignment editors, more students received salaries in l 999 than in 1992.

More than half (53.1 percent) of all top editors are paid. Of those, more than two-thirds (69.2 percent) receive $251-$500 a month, up from 22 percent in 1992. More than one-fourth (26.9 percent) all paid $501-$750; 23.1 percent earn $101-$250, and 11.5 percent receive less than $ 100 a month. In 1992, 28 percent fell into the last category, and only one person was paid more than $500. Editors fare much better at this point in time.

Nearly half (40.4 percent) the managing editors are paid, an increase from 29 percent in l 992. Nearly half (47.4 percent) earn $251-$500 a month; 26.3 percent earn $ l 00 or less, and 21.1 percent, $ l 01 to $250. One individual is paid $751-$1,000.

Slightly fewer news editors are paid (36.2 percent). Most of those (41.2 percent) earn $100 or less; slightly more than one-third (35.2 percent) receive $25 l -$500 a month, and 17.6 percent are paid $ 101 -$250. In 1992, nearly three-fourths earned $100 or less, so salaries have improved significantly for news editors, as for other top editors.

Sports editors do as well as their news counterparts, with more than one-third (35.4 percent) being salaried. Of those, nearly half (41.2 percent) receive $100 or less a month and 23.5 percent, $101-$250. Nearly one-third (29.4 percent) are paid $251 -$500, and one individual receives $501-$750.

Nearly one-third (34 percent) of feature editors are salaried. Of those, 43.8 percent receive $100 or less, and nearly one-third (31.3 percent), $251 -$500. Another 18.8 percent are paid $101-$250 and one person receives $751 -$1,000.

For campus/assignment editors, the percentages are even lower, with only 12.5 percent receiving salaries; nearly two-thirds (60 percent) are paid $100 or less a month, while one receives $251 -$500 and one, $751-$1,000.

Copy editors fare slightly better, with 20.9 percent being paid. One-third receive $100 or less and another one-third, $251-$500.

Editorial page editors are similar, with 18.6 percent receiving salaries. Three-fourths are paid $ 100 or less; one editor receives $251-$500 and one, $751-$1,000.

More than one-fourth of reporters are paid, up significantly from 10 percent in 1992. More than two-thirds (69.2 percent) receive $100 or less a month, but 15.4 percent are paid $101-$250. One is paid $351-$500 and one, $751-$1,000.

Photo editors do better than a number of others, with nearly one-third (31.9 percent) being salaried; 40 percent are paid $251-$500 and another one-third receive $100 or less. One-fifth receive $101-$250, and one is paid $750-$1,000. Nearly half (40.4 percent) the photographers receive salaries; 15.8 percent receive $1 to $5 per usable photo or per published photo, and l 0.5 percent receive $10.01 or more per usable photo. Another 10.5 percent receive $5.01 - $10 per published photo.

On the business side, advertising managers earn salaries comparable to those of managing editors. Of the one-half who are paid, more than one-third (34.8 percent) receive $101-$250 a month; 26.1 percent earn $100 or less, and another 20.1 percent, $251 - $500. Higher salaries, $501 or more, are paid to 13.4 percent of ad managers.

Business managers receive considerably less, with only 24.3 percent salaried; of those, 44.4 percent are paid $351-$500 a month, and one-third receive $ l 00 or less. One individual earns $ 101-$250 and one, $501 -$750. Only three classified advertising managers receive salaries; two are paid $100 or less a month and one, $25 l -$500.

Few (12.8 percent) ad sales representatives are salaried; of those, 60 percent are paid $100 or less a month, and 40 percent, $251-$500. Most (85 percent) work totally on a commission basis and the rest receive an hourly wage. Of those working on commission, most (40 percent) receive 16-20 percent commission on sales, and an equal number (20 percent) are paid 1-5 percent, 6-10 percent and 11-lS percent. No one receives more than a 20 percent commission, nor is anyone paid both salary and commission.

Course Credit

Fewer editors in all positions received course credit in 1999 than they did in 1992. Percentages range from 46.9 percent for top editors to 22.2 percent for classified advertising managers.

Nearly half the top editors (46.9 percent) receive course credit for their work on the college paper; of those, almost all (91.3 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours and 8.7 percent receive 7 or more.

An equal number of managing editors (46.8 percent) are granted course credit; of those, most (86.4 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours.

Figures for news editors are comparable, with 45.8 percent receiving credit; 86.4 percent are granted 1-3 semester hours, and one individual receives 7 or more.

A slightly smaller percentage (40.8 percent) of sports editors earn credit for their work on the paper; almost all (90 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours.

An equal number of features editors (40.4 percent) receive credit; (89.5 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours as well.

Fewer campus/assignment editors (34. l percent) get credit; almost all (85.7 percent) receive 1-3 semester hours.

Percentages for copy editors are similar, with 36.4 percent earning credit; again, most (93.8 percent) are granted 1-3 semester hours. One, however, received 7 or more.

Of the 37.2 percent of editorial page editors who earn credit, all but one receive 1-3 semester hours. The same holds true for the 45.8 percent of reporters who are given course credit.

All but two of the 42.6 percent of photo editors who receive course credit for their work on the newspaper earn l -3 semester hours.

On the business side, the percentages for advertising managers are similar, with 35.4 percent receiving credit; 82.4 percent receive 1-3 semester hours. Few business managers (23.8 percent) are granted credit; of those who do, 90 percent earn 1-3 hours. Of the 22.2 percent of classified advertising managers who get credit, all are awarded 1-3 hours.

Tuition waivers

The number of tuition waivers granted to newspaper editors declined from the 1992 study. In l 999, only 14.7 percent of two-year colleges offer waivers to editors, down from 27 percent in 1992. Only 11.8 percent of top editors and 2.9 percent of managing editors receive those waivers.


Even though two-year college papers published less frequently in 1999, with weeklies and alternate weekly publications declining and monthlies increasing, newspaper budgets increased. In addition, in 1999, the percentage of editors receiving salaries also increased, as did the salaries they earned.

Two-year newspapers are dependent largely on student activities fees for funding, however, overall advertising revenue increased in 1999 to become a larger portion of their budgets. Financially, community college student newspapers maintained a healthy pattern of growth at the end of the 20'h century and started the new millennium and the 21st century on a firmer financial foundation.

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Dr Lillian Lodge Kopenhaver is professor and associate dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Florida International University. She is a past president of the Community College Journalism Association, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication and College Media Advisers, and is in the Hal

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