Colleges are focusing increased effort — and money — to improve the physical condition of existing facilities and address a huge backlog of deferred maintenance. According to American School & University's 36th annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, the median college spends 16.4 percent of total college budget on M&O, up from 11 percent the year before.

The boost in percentage spending by colleges reflects a growing need by institutions to get their physical plants prepared for the approximately 2 million more students projected to enter their doors over the next decade. While spending on M&O by far surpassed annual percentage amounts reported over the past decade, much of the increase could be attributed to huge outlays this school year for the cost of utilities — especially gas, which skyrocketed 117 percent from what was spent per student the year before.

More information from the latest M&O Cost Study follows, providing you with valuable data that can help you in benchmarking expenditures at your institution. As you review the information, keep in mind that the survey only targets two-year and four-year colleges with no significant graduate programs in order to provide useful comparative data. 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.

Survey methodology

Data for the annual M&O Cost Study were collected via an in-depth questionnaire mailed in October 2006 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 2006-07 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.