Although colleges continue to face tough economic times, they still spend a larger percentage of their total budget on maintenance and operations (M&O) than their school district counterparts. But the amount still falls far short of addressing growing needs — and deferred maintenance remains a significant problem at campuses nationwide.

According to American School & University's 11th annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, spending on M&O as a percentage of total college budget increased to 10 percent from 9.5 percent last year. School districts allocate 7.5 percent.

Study methodology

To arrive at results for the annual M&O Cost Study, physical plant directors at two-year colleges and four-year institutions with no significant graduate programs were mailed in October a detailed questionnaire asking them to document various M&O costs for the 2004-05 school year.

In order to provide useful comparative data, the survey only targets two-year colleges and four-year institutions with no significant graduate programs. No universities were included in this research. Larger four-year universities with significant graduate programs are not surveyed because their costs and activities typically are so varied that results would be less useful.

Data is broken out by two-year, four-year and all colleges. The tables and charts found throughout the report detail median M&O expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student and per square foot, as well as the incidence of various maintenance practices.

Table 1 details median M&O expenditures per FTE student for such categories as salaries, benefits, gas, electricity, other utilities, custodial/maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, vehicle maintenance and total M&O, and identifies the percentage of total budget colleges direct to M&O.

Table 2 outlines median M&O expenditures per square foot of building maintained. Although the total M&O budget per square foot of two-year and four-year colleges is very close, four-year institutions maintain more than three times the amount of building space than two-year colleges (399 square feet per student compared with 118 square feet per student at two-year colleges). The median college maintains 183 square feet per student.

Table 3 highlights salary data for a variety of M&O job functions at two-year, four-year and all colleges. Among the titles surveyed:

  • 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.

  • Engineer/Architect: Those in-house positions responsible for planning, design and specialized facilities duties.

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

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

  • Motor Pool: Those individuals involved with transportation operations.

  • Secretarial/Clerical: Those individuals who perform secretarial duties.

  • Security: Those individuals responsible for safety of buildings and equipment. Does not include professional security or law-enforcement officials, if employed by the college.