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Facilities Backlog Grows

December 20, 2016
 
 

Colleges and universities continue to record a growing backlog in deferred facilities maintenance, according to a new report released Monday.

The campus facilities maintenance, modernization and infrastructure backlog averaged $100.07 per gross square foot in 2015, said the 2016 “State of Facilities in Higher Education” report, which has been released annually for four years by facilities data and consulting firm Sightlines. That’s up from $97.56 in 2014 and $81.72 in 2007.

Public and private institutions posted significantly different backlogs. Backlogs were higher at public institutions, averaging more than $108 per gross square foot. They were lower at private institutions, averaging $88 per gross square foot. Private institutions tend to invest more in facilities maintenance and modernization.

Enrollment trends place different facilities pressures on institutions of different sizes, the report found. Many small institutions that recently borrowed money to renovate or build in a bid to attract more students are now facing enrollment declines. They have seen enrollment drop by 3 percent since 2012 even though they’ve increased facilities development by 4 percent. Comprehensive institutions are opening new space just as they’re hit by enrollment stagnation -- they increased their space by almost 14 percent cumulatively since 2012 but only posted a 1 percent enrollment increase over the same time period.

Meanwhile, research universities face another set of circumstances, with enrollment spiking 13 percent since 2007 compared to a slower expansion of space of between 8 percent and 9 percent.

Many campuses postponed capital investment in aging existing facilities as they put up new buildings, the report said. Since 2007, capital invested in existing space has averaged $5 per gross square foot. Public institutions spent less -- $4.50 per gross square foot on average, versus $5.20 for private institutions.

More nonacademic space has been built than academic space in the last 100 years. In 1915, 70 percent of available space was built for academic purposes, compared to roughly 50 percent in 2015.

The report included data from 377 institutions in the United States and Canada collectively enrolling three million students. They had a collective 1.4 billion square feet of campus space.

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