The nation's colleges are feeling the pinch of the economic downturn, and maintenance and operations (M&O) budgets especially are under pressure.

According to American School & University's 38th annual Maintenance & Operations Cost Study, the median college allocates 10 percent of its total budget to M&O, down from 11 percent the year before. While lower energy costs helped colleges' bottom lines, rising payroll and benefits costs strained budgets.

Like school districts, custodial and maintenance staff are being required to do more. The amount of square feet maintained per full-time custodian increased by 16 percent; the amount of square feet maintained per full-time maintenance worker increased by 13 percent.

The following pages include data from the latest M&O Cost Study that can help you in benchmarking expenditures at your institution. Data provided only targets two-year and four-year colleges with no significant graduate programs. This is done to provide more useful comparative data. Larger four-year universities with significant graduate programs are not surveyed because their costs and activities are so varied that results would be less useful.

In addition, data provided reflect actual spending by colleges on M&O and are not intended to be "ideal" amounts. Numerous factors — such as age and overall condition of buildings, the labor market in your area, climate, etc. — will affect your costs when compared with the national medians.

For those looking for additional data, select the links below the Web Exclusive icon that will direct you to exclusive data not found in the print version on M&O expenditures and operations at our nation's colleges.


Data for the annual American School & University M&O Cost Study were collected via an in-depth questionnaire mailed in January 2009 to physical plant directors at two-year and four-year colleges with no significant graduate programs. Recipients were asked to document various M&O costs for the 2008-09 school year. The tables and charts detail median M&O expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student and per square foot, as well as the incidence of various maintenance practices.

Among the titles included:

  • Administrative: Those individuals who have managerial or supervisory duties (does not include the overall director of physical plant).

  • Custodial: Those individuals responsible for building upkeep and cleaning.

  • Maintenance: Those individuals who perform skilled jobs, such as plumbing, electrical or HVAC repair.

  • Grounds: Those individuals responsible for landscape maintenance and upkeep.

  • Secretarial. Those individuals providing clerical support.