Tackling Key Challenges

When it comes to dealing with facilities on campus, the problems and challenges are neverending-here are the top 10 impacting colleges and universities in 1998 and beyond.

The ADA requires that college and university programs be accessible. How are institutions responding to ADA regulations?

EPP: We're looking, as we are remodeling areas, to make sure we comply with ADA. Although we're not expending a large amount of funds, we are doing things incrementally as we can, like restrooms, doors and ramps.

One thing that is important is that you keep records to show that you are trying to comply; that you show that the intent is there to make the changes.

CYROS: I don't know of a college or university, no matter how small, that doesn't have someone on staff to pay attention to the mandates and understand them. Most medium to large universities are all continuing to have budgets for introducing the physical aspects of ADA every time a renovation takes place. It's an automatic part of the budget process for space changes.

One of the things that I'm seeing across the country for ADA is that implementation is as much for physically challenged students as for physically challenged staff. A lot of people forget about that.

The need for new construction and renovation is growing on today's college campuses. How much construction is being done on your campus, and how are you responding to facility demands?

EPP: We haven't done a lot of construction, but we have retrofitted a lot of the campus buildings.

We just demolished 15 buildings. The university was in a residential area and had purchased or acquired about 30 different properties over the years. We've now eliminated about half, including the old main structure. We wanted to give it a more campus-like appearance, rather than just a residential area with some large buildings sprinkled in. Now, we have opened the campus so you can see from one end to the other.

WAGNER: We're heavily under construction right now in response to student needs here on campus. We're building a new student center of approximately 70,000 square feet to be opened next fall.

Although the new building is a student center, it also will house recreational facilities, a new gym, fitness center, squash and racquetball courts, and a running track. This building will also house the bookstore, food court, offices for student clubs and many of the student-services functions, a wellness center, and child-care center for students' children. We currently do have offices for student services, but they are scattered across campus. The current gym building was built in 1962 and is not adequate for college sports today.

We are constantly doing renovations on campus. We are doing a major parking renovation next summer to create 202 new parking spaces for students.

DRAUDT: We've built several academic buildings, including a residence hall, and recreation and fitness center. We also have done a lot of infrastructure work regarding water lines and electrical distribution systems.

The university was founded in 1932, and basically the construction was the result of increased student enrollment, and also different expansion and academic programs in the area of aviation. We constructed a brand-new aviation facility in addition to current buildings that we already had, so we expanded that to accommodate the flight program, Also, we built a new college of business.

Often when universities have tight budgets and more than one problem on their plate, deferred maintenance becomes a necessary evil. Some things just have to be postponed until there is more money down the road. What deferred maintenance concerns have you dealt with?

EPP: One of the biggest areas of deferred maintenance is the roofs. We are now replacing roofs with ones that have an R-20 insulation rating, and we've noticed major improvements. R-20 is not the most effective, but it's certainly a big step up from the roofs that were first installed. We've had a noticeable difference in energy savings. Our utility company was constantly contacting us last winter because the savings were so substantial on our flat-roof buildings.

We've installed five new roofs in the last five years. The roofs were old, but we felt good about it [spending the money for repairing the roofs] when we got the energy savings. In fact, we generated about a 30 percent savings on heating on one building.

Energy bills can take a big chunk out of an institution's budget. How can energy be managed to prevent the costs from getting carried away?

EPP: About two years ago, we started working with a company on an energy-management performance-contract project, and made some capital investments for energy conservation. The company came in and did a study, found we had a need, and expanded the program.

We were demolishing the original building that had housed the university when it started in 1943. As the needs of the university grew and the building got older, the building couldn't be salvaged because it had a wood frame.

With the performance contract, the company installed a new boiler for us because we had three buildings, two that were fed off of a heating plant. We built a new heating plant in the remaining building, in addition to another adjacent building. We switched from electric to natural gas, relamped essentially the entire campus and made some other retrofits.

We decided to go that route because of the guaranteed performance. We felt we couldn't lose with a performance guarantee from a corporation. We also had visited one other campus that had done this [performance contract] and were pleased with it.

CYROS: I keep hearing about the energy crisis that we saw in '73-'74. Don't think for a second that it's gone away. The large campus operates with that in mind. If you look at any budget, utility bills are a very large chunk of the operations and maintenance budget.

I'm amazed that the fervor for energy conservation has remained very high, not a flash in the pan. We still think in terms of energy conservation. It's become a major part of the design process.

The environment has been a huge issue and continues to make headlines. What kind of environmental issues does your institution have to deal with?

CYROS: The environment is a big issue. Clearly one of things that universities-all of the big and some of the small-are hearing about is deregulation of the utility business and utility field. No matter how small the facility, it can have an impact on utility bills.

Some of the larger universities have gone to cogeneration plants, and that has a lot of different aspects to think about. It takes a lot more studying of engineering principles, and state-regulation environmental issues have to be addressed singlehandedly by colleges.

There's been some remarkable work with fume hoods; one of the great black holes of energy in all the university labs across the country. Any university now wouldn't renovate an area or build a new lab with fume hoods that don't comply with new standards. They look at the impact and best approach for the environment.

As budgets get tighter and tighter, extra measures need to be taken to make sure the money is there to keep students coming. How do you deal with the funding issue?

EPP: We've had an increase in enrollment in four out of the last five years, and we did that while we had a significant tuition adjustment. When we received regional accreditation 21/2 years ago, we did a 35 percent adjustment for the fall of 1996. At the same time we only saw about a 2 percent enrollment drop.

WAGNER: Our institution was part of a pooled tax-exempt financing program with other private colleges in Ohio. That plus a major capital campaign is funding the student center. Most of the renovations done currently have been with donor funds.

It's becoming more difficult [to raise funds] because the buildings are getting older. There are always concerns in trying to address the needs of today's students. What was wonderful in the '60s just won't work in the '90s. Colleges are finding that students visit campuses and say their high-school facilities were better than the college's. We have to keep working diligently to remain competitive.

DRAUDT: We've just completed, over the last five to seven years, about $40 million in various campus renovations. To do that type of renovation, it requires money, and a lot of that was done in part by donations, and also in part by bond-issue financing.

The critical part of financing, and one of the things people should be aware of in the whole process, are the bond covenants associated with borrowing money. Be aware of bond covenants so that they are such that you can live with them and they don't have to be an undue burden on operations.

Bond issues require certain standards. Certain standards may include a revision that relates back to how much debt a school can have, certain operating ratios that a school must maintain so that an institution does not find itself obligated to pay a bond, or considerations about the time period when the money will have to be paid back.

We've had a fair amount of support from alumni. We're in the process of a campaign called 'Building the Future,' soliciting alumni for the first time in many cases.

A lot of our money comes from friends of the university, significant gifts from former trustees, but in order to obtain donations, there has to be a cause. People have to feel a need for the money, that it will be spent wisely and can possibly further their own particular interests. Especially large gifts-it has to be felt that there is a program or mission to work for.

Students are demanding more out of residence halls. How have you dealt with this issue, and how can you modify residence halls to contain the amenities that students want?

WAGNER: We have one residence hall that was built in 1962 and are currently designing a plan for modernization of the building. We have been working with the college's design-studio class students who are submitting ideas.

One of their projects was to modernize the current residence-hall rooms and lounges/hallways. They came back with wonderful ideas. Now our in-house plant-operations staff is using student ideas to renovate different types of rooms for prototypes, including a private room, semi-private room, large private room, apartments, and suites with private bathrooms. As we finish each room, we go back to the students for their feedback. In this way we feel we will address their needs.

We also will do major renovations in the bathrooms, which are common bathrooms, and we're looking at more energy-efficient windows and ADA improvements.

DRAUDT: We have a new residence hall that was constructed in response to student needs. It's an apartment suite, apartment-style building. It seems to be what students want nowadays.

The other one was first built in the '60s. It had traditional hallways with two people in each room, and common washrooms. It was the traditional residence hall most people experienced in college many years ago. The new one has private baths, a new kitchenette and common living area. It opened last September and is a very popular building.

Campus security is a big issue. What contributes to crime on campus, and what can colleges and universities do to protect students? CYROS: Campuses in general are a ripe target for crime because they have low-volume, low-weight and high-cost items that can be easily carried off. With tight budgets, getting tighter and tighter, it's tough enough to budget to get equipment, and then God forbid they would lose it because of theft. Security forces do spend a great deal of effort educating faculty, students and staff on campus. It's a really big issue for the few dollars that get in the budget for security.

There are unique systems out there. One we see more and more are the faculty/staff and student ID cards and smart cards. They do everything from allowing entrance into parking lots to issuing debits against accounts. And the cards can be extended for security matters as you get in the path of becoming more and more automated.

DRAUDT: Security is always an issue. Students want to feel safe, and we need to provide ways for that to happen.

What are some technology concerns/issues that affect colleges and universities in particular?

CYROS: Overall, technology in its broadest term, which includes systems, hardware and information, is one of the most important issues on any campus today.

One of the big issues is the cost of change of universities implementing brand-new accounting systems, costing millions of dollars. Most of this started because of the year-2000 issues. Accounting systems are so old, it would cost so much to make the systems 2000-compatible, and we're having to relook at the new accounting systems out there. It has triggered a huge business.

One of the issues that medical centers on college campuses face is the federal government participating in reimbursing a fair share of indirect costs of providing federally sponsored research or patient services. The federal government isn't willing to part with the money unless the university can prove it has timely and accurate technology systems. This presents a huge drain on college and university information-systems or information-technology budgets.

DRAUDT: Our new residence halls have computer facilities in the buildings, and all the students are tied into the campus backbone and have access to the mainframe. It's important that we have that technology available to them.

What aspect of transportation is new to campuses?

CYROS: Several greater-Boston universities have a "safe ride," which allows students, faculty and staff within an urban setting to go from the office to the parking lot with a safe ride. This also applies for students late at night-they can be escorted from the dorm to the library. It's a security measure in addition to a transportation issue.

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