Just like their school district brethren, higher-education institutions are feeling the pressure on maintenance and operations (M&O) budgets caused by difficult economic conditions and rising costs. The median college allocates 11 percent of total college budget to M&O, down from 16.4 percent the year before, according to American School & University's 37th annual Maintenance and Operations Cost Study.

The area affecting M&O budgets the most is energy expenditures. Spending per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student on energy/utilities rose a whopping 24 percent from the year before. This comes after dramatic increases in the category's costs last year. Also, budget pressures are causing maintenance staffs to absorb more work. For example, the amount of square feet of building maintained per FTE student increased to a record 277 this year.

Additional data from the most recent M&O Cost Study follows, providing you with valuable data that can help you in benchmarking expenditures at your institution. Please note that the information 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.

Study methodology

Data for the annual American School & University M&O Cost Study were collected via an in-depth questionnaire mailed in October 2007 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 2007-08 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.