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November 02, 2018

Facilities report outlines deteriorating conditions on college campuses

$1.4 billion worth of deferred maintenance identified

The Missouri Department of Higher Education released a report on the condition of facilities at Missouri’s public colleges and universities that details several trends and issues. The report also includes budgetary and policy recommendations based on its findings.

Missouri Department of Higher Education staff and Coordinating Board members conducted reviews at each of the state’s 13 public university campuses, 12 community colleges, and state technical college throughout the summer. Assistant Commissioner Jeff Barlow led the review and saw firsthand the facility needs on Missouri’s public campuses.

The report is based on information gathered through staff visits, data, and conversations with stakeholders. It includes dashboards of facility highlights, descriptions of each campus’s most serious facility challenges, and their top capital priorities.

Much of the discussion focused on students’ learning environments, accreditation requirements, and workforce needs.

“The goal of this review is to establish a fact base the Coordinating Board for Higher Education can use to make recommendations regarding funding for capital improvements,” Barlow said.

Public higher education institutions have a significant facility footprint of over 2,453 buildings with 60,195,203 maintainable square footage resting on 25,760 acres.

Perhaps the biggest issue identified during the review is the significant amount of deferred maintenance. “Every public college and university in the state has a substantial backlog of deferred maintenance -- projects that have been postponed due to a lack of funds,” Barlow said. Total known deferred maintenance for all of Missouri public campuses is more than $1.4 billion.

“We have some extraordinary college campuses in Missouri that we should all be proud of,” Coordinating Board Chair Doug Kennedy said. “Unfortunately, when you look behind the scenes, you see a growing number of issues that can negatively impact learning environments for students, teaching environments for faculty, and lab space for researchers, and that hurt Missouri’s efforts to recruit college students from out of state.”

In addition to the increasing severity of deferred maintenance, the problems facing higher education facilities generally fall into five other categories:

  • Instability of funding for capital improvement projects in higher education.

  • Difficulty meeting workforce demands due to inadequate quantity and quality of space.

  • Growing competition and out-of-state student migration affecting student choice of institution.

  • Escalation of the need for improved physical safety and cybersecurity affecting students and staff.

  • New demands on and rising costs of education technology (infrastructure and software).

The report is intended to help drive capital improvement decisions in the future.  Due to the size of the deferred maintenance problems identified during the review, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education chose to focus the Department’s FY20 budget request on additional maintenance and repair needs and did not endorse any requests for new construction.

“Addressing deferred maintenance and identifying funding to support new construction will be a major challenge in the coming decade,” said Zora Mulligan, Commissioner of Higher Education. “But it is one the Coordinating Board for Higher Education, public colleges and universities, policymakers, and appropriators must face squarely.”

The full report, including facility descriptions and priorities for each campus, is available at https://dhe.mo.gov/initiatives/facilityreview.php.