Total spending on new, addition and retrofit construction by the nation's school districts and higher-education institutions, while vibrant, pulled back in 2004 from its all-time high the year before. According to American School & University's 31st annual Official Education Construction Report, education institutions put in place $41.3 billion worth of construction in 2004, down from the massive $48.1 billion spent in 2003. Looking ahead, education construction will continue to be strong, with more than $135 billion projected to be spent through 2007.

While overall spending on education construction slowed in 2004, school districts actually posted record totals, putting in place $29.1 billion worth of construction ($28.6 billion in 2003). The record spending was fueled by a focus on modernizing and adding to existing facilities.

Following five years of accelerated spending on construction, colleges and universities seem to have caught up some on their construction backlog as 2004 posted a significant drop in total spending. Slightly more than $12 billion worth of construction was put in place by higher-education institutions last year. New construction made up the bulk of the spending.


To arrive at results for the 31st annual Official Education Construction Report, a detailed questionnaire was mailed in October 2004 to chief business officials at the nation's school districts and colleges. Basically, two questions were asked:

  • Did you complete any construction during the past year?
  • Will you complete any construction in the next three years?

Administrators answering “yes” to either question were then asked to provide a variety of details on the amount being spent, the type of construction being done (new, addition or modernization), and the expected completion date. All respondents involved with new and retrofit construction were asked to provide additional information on each project. Further follow-up calls were made to clarify some data. Responses were separated by institution type, region of the country and institution size, and projected across the education universe.

It's in the details

In the following charts, you will find a wealth of data on construction spending by education institutions in 2004, projected spending through 2007, and myriad other breakouts.