The old adage, “what goes up must come down,” can be used to describe education construction spending in 2005. After impressive gains in expenditures during the first half of the decade, total construction spending by schools and universities pulled back from historic highs.

A combination of factors, including skyrocketing fuel and building-materials costs, resulted in education institutions trimming down or even putting the brakes on projects. According to American School & University's 32nd annual Official Education Construction Report, total spending on new, addition and retrofit construction by the nation's school districts and higher-education institutions amounted to $37.5 billion in 2005, down from $41.3 billion in 2004.

Reduced spending by school districts accounted for the drop in total spending; colleges and universities actually increased their construction expenditures in 2005. About $23 billion worth of construction was completed by school districts last year, down from $29 billion in 2004. Higher-education-institution spending rose to $14.5 billion in 2005 ($12.1 billion the year before).


To arrive at results for the 32nd annual Official Education Construction Report, a detailed questionnaire was sent 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 correspondence was made to clarify some data. Responses were separated by institution type, region of the country and institution size, and projected across the education universe.