Shrunken Budgets Mean Reduced Investments in Higher Ed Facilities: Report

  April 5, 2022

By Dave Lubach

A growing backlog of capital needs in higher education is struggling to be met because of a declining amount of funds available, according to a recent report. 

Gordian, a facility and construction cost data company, reported in its annual State of Facilities in Higher Education report shows a 19 percent reduction in year-over-year investments as major capital projects were slowed or halted as expenditures were less available. 

“Across higher education, focused facilities stewardship and capital planning are more critical than ever,” says Mark Schiff, Gordian president. “The findings from this year’s report further invigorate our mission to help institutions prioritize investments and drive meaningful outcomes within their communities.” 

Among the highlights from the report: 

  • Preliminary data warns that the facilities investment shortfall to anticipated demands is approaching 40 percent, accelerating the deferral of projects necessary to steward the campus. 

  • 30 percent of the buildings in Gordian’s database are in the 10–25-year-old age group, and the major systems in many of them will soon reach the end of their lives. A convergence of anticipated lifecycle needs for a large portfolio of campus facilities and a documented looming enrollment cliff is expected to bear down on higher education over the next 10-15 years. 

  • Operating budgets have plunged 9 percent since 2019, and preliminary data for 2021 shows an average workforce reduction of 8 percent. 

  • Survey results through a partnership with APPA reveal that 56 percent of facility leaders indicated they have greater influence on campus since the pandemic started in March 2020. 

Gordian used data from more than 52,000 facilities in higher education, representing about 300 campuses across North America.  

Dave Lubach is managing editor, Facility Group.


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