Staying the Course: The 9th annual College M&O Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 9th annual College M&O Cost Study

College spending on maintenance and operations (M&O) held steady this year, even as the economy continues to wreak havoc on higher-education budgets.

M&O spending as a percentage of total budget remained at 10 percent, according to American School & University's ninth annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study. While the percentage amount remained constant, total M&O spending per student dropped by 13 percent from last year as total M&O spending per square foot grew by 4 percent.

Methodology

To arrive at the results, 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 2002-03 school year.

No universities were included in this research. The survey specifically targets two-year colleges and four-year institutions 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 are so varied that results would be less useful.

This year's results are listed not only by median, which is how data have been presented in the past, but also by mean (average) to offer an additional benchmarking tool.

In the details

This year's Cost Study includes a variety of tables and charts detailing M&O expenditures at two-year, four-year and all colleges. Table 1 and Table 1A outline median and mean M&O spending per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student for such categories as salaries, benefits, gas, electricity, other utilities, maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, vehicle maintenance and total M&O, and identifies the percentage of total budget colleges allocate to M&O.

Two-year colleges spend a larger portion of total budget (12 percent) on M&O than four-year institutions (10 percent). However, they also allocate a larger percentage of their M&O dollars to salaries (52 percent compared with 43 percent at four-year institutions).

Median and mean M&O expenditures per square foot of building maintained can be found in Table 2 and Table 2A. Square feet of building maintained per FTE student varies significantly among four-year and two-year colleges. Four-year institutions maintain almost four times the amount of building space than two-year colleges (426 square feet per student compared with 125 square feet per student at two-year colleges). The median college maintains 189 square feet per student.

Table 3 details 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).

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

  • 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.

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

Additional survey findings

  • The average custodian is maintaining fewer square feet than last year. The amount of square feet maintained per custodian at all colleges totaled 30,306 (32,750 last year). Square feet maintained per custodian at two-year colleges was 27,778, while custodians at four-year institutions maintained 38,636 square feet each.

  • Square feet maintained per maintenance worker increased this year (64,248 compared with 62,368 last year).

  • Acres maintained per grounds employee also jumped this year (24 compared to 21 last year).

  • The median M&O budget was higher at all levels for the 2002-03 school year. All colleges increased to $1.9 million ($1.67 million last year), two-year colleges to $1.5 million ($1.46 million last year) and four-year institutions to $2.9 million ($2.13 million last year).

 

TABLE 1A: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per FTE student)

 
      All Colleges % Two-Year % Four-Year %
Salaries $337.88 48% $265.64 52% $612.50 43%
Benefits (based on full-time only) $56.24 8% $40.22 8% $124.43 9%
Total Utilities $248.33 35% $167.57 33% $557.13 39%
  Gas** $47.50   $33.33   $160.00  
  Electricity** $128.00   $100.00   $272.19  
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $197.68   $142.86   $428.44  
  Other Utilities** $27.78   $15.33   $66.67  
Total Equipment & Supplies $55.40 8% $28.71 6% $96.83 7%
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $32.26   $17.65   $64.36  
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $11.81   $7.52   $36.59  
Vehicle Maintenance $8.64 1% $3.99 1% $25.00 2%
Total M&O Budget* $706.49 100% $506.13 100% $1,415.89 100%
% M&O of Total College Budget 10.0%   12.0%   10.0%  
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

TABLE 1B: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in mean dollars per FTE student)

 
      All Colleges % Two-Year % Four-Year %
Salaries $768.34 48% $327.50 50% $1,503.07 48%
Benefits (based on full-time only) $175.53 11% $65.78 10% $345.47 11%
Total Utilities $501.82 32% $191.16 29% $985.07 32%
  Gas** $117.95   $38.36   $243.96  
  Electricity** $246.07   $106.39   $475.00  
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $383.58   $156.62   $742.94
  Other Utilities** $67.69   $22.63   $139.03  
Total Equipment & Supplies $127.28 8% $57.82 9% $235.33 8%
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $75.01   $32.87   $141.73  
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $33.47   $10.08   $71.15  
Vehicle Maintenance $19.17 1% $9.52 2% $33.51 1%
Total M&O Budget* $1,592.14 100% $651.78 100% $3,102.45 100%
% M&O of Total College Budget 13.3%   11.6%   16.0%  
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

Data in detail

Following are medians by institution type:

Category All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Sq. ft. of bldg. maintained per student 189 125 426
Sq. ft. maintained per custodial employee 30,306 27,778 38,636
Sq. ft. maintained per maintenance employee 64,248 61,544 68,737
Acres maintained per grounds employee 24 25 23
Total 2002-03 M&O Budget $1.9 million $1.5 million $2.9 million

TABLE 2A: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in median dollars per square foot)

 
      All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Salaries $1.74 $1.96 $1.51
Benefits (based on full-time only) $0.35 $0.42 $0.28
Total Utilities $1.44 $1.50 $1.38
  Gas** $0.31 $0.27 $0.34
  Electricity** $0.76 $0.80 $0.64
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.15 $1.26 $1.06
  Other Utilities** $0.17 $0.16 $0.13
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.26 $0.26 $0.26
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.14 $0.15 $0.13
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.06 $0.06 $0.07
Vehicle Maintenance $0.04 $0.04 $0.05
Total M&O Budget* $3.83 $4.18 $3.48
Sq. ft. of bldg. maint. per FTE student 189 125 426
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

TABLE 2B: Maintenance & Operations Costs (Expressed in mean dollars per square foot)

 
      All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Salaries $2.25 $2.37 $2.00
Benefits (based on full-time only) $0.47 $0.52 $0.38
Total Utilities $1.45 $1.51 $1.33
  Gas** $0.34 $0.35 $0.33
  Electricity** $0.80 $0.89 $0.64
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.36 $1.54 $1.05
  Other Utilities** $0.18 $0.18 $0.19
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.38 $0.38 $0.39
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.25 $0.25 $0.24
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.08 $0.06 $0.12
Vehicle Maintenance $0.06 $0.06 $0.06
Total M&O Budget* $4.61 $4.84 $4.16
*Calculated from subtotals (in bold).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

Number of buildings at institution

1 building 3%
2 to 5 buildings 9%
6 to 10 buildings 16%
11 to 20 buildings 33%
More than 20 buildings 34%
No answer 5%

TABLE 3: M&O salaries (Full-time employees)

Function Median Mean
Administrative $51,113 $52,467
Clerical/Secretarial $25,000 $25,200
Custodial/Housekeeping $20,132 $22,458
Engineer/Architect $50,091 $52,147
Grounds $24,000 $25,019
Maintenance $30,000 $31,120
Motor Pool $25,592 $24,436
Security $26,582 $29,804

Total gross area maintained of all buildings

(including corridors and other common and office areas) by responding institutions

Less than 100,000 sq. ft. 7%
100,000 to 199,999 sq. ft. 8%
200,000 to 299,999 sq. ft. 12%
300,000 to 399,999 sq. ft. 16%
400,000 to 499,999 sq. ft. 9%
500,000 to 749,999 sq. ft. 14%
750,000 sq. ft. or more 24%
No answer 10%

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U.

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