Steady Spending: 11th Annual College M&O Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 11th Annual College M&O Cost Study

Although colleges continue to face tough economic times, they still spend a larger percentage of their total budget on maintenance and operations (M&O) than their school district counterparts. But the amount still falls far short of addressing growing needs — and deferred maintenance remains a significant problem at campuses nationwide.

According to American School & University's 11th annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study, spending on M&O as a percentage of total college budget increased to 10 percent from 9.5 percent last year. School districts allocate 7.5 percent.

Study methodology

To arrive at results for the annual M&O Cost Study, 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 2004-05 school year.

In order to provide useful comparative data, the survey only targets two-year colleges and four-year institutions with no significant graduate programs. No universities were included in this research. 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.

Data is broken out by two-year, four-year and all colleges. The tables and charts found throughout the report detail median M&O expenditures per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student and per square foot, as well as the incidence of various maintenance practices.

Table 1 details median M&O expenditures per FTE student for such categories as salaries, benefits, gas, electricity, other utilities, custodial/maintenance and grounds equipment and supplies, vehicle maintenance and total M&O, and identifies the percentage of total budget colleges direct to M&O.

Table 2 outlines median M&O expenditures per square foot of building maintained. Although the total M&O budget per square foot of two-year and four-year colleges is very close, four-year institutions maintain more than three times the amount of building space than two-year colleges (399 square feet per student compared with 118 square feet per student at two-year colleges). The median college maintains 183 square feet per student.

Table 3 highlights 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).

  • 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.

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

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

Highlights of this year's survey

  • The median M&O budget for all colleges is $1.56 million ($1.41 million at 2-year colleges and $1.60 million at 4-year institutions).

  • The amount of square feet maintained per custodian dropped to 30,960 from 33,429 last year. At two-year colleges, the number of square feet maintained per custodian is 29,206; at four-year institutions, it is 34,144.

  • Square feet maintained per maintenance worker increased this year to 70,062 from 68,954 last year.

  • The number of acres maintained per grounds employee declined slightly to 25 from 27 the year before.

  • The median total utilities cost for all colleges is $640,000. Gas and electricity account for about 80 percent of the cost for all utilities.

  • Engineers and architects receive the highest median salaries at colleges, but only 12 percent of institutions reported having one on staff.

  • Benefits equate to 27 percent of base pay.

  • The median number of buildings on a two-year college campus is 14; the median number of buildings on a four-year campus is 19.

  • The incidence of outsourcing M&O services is practically even between two-year and four-year colleges (20 and 22 percent, respectively).

 

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

 
      All Colleges % Two-Year % Four-Year %
Salaries $459.96 49% $224.48 43% $841.78 47%
Benefits (based on full-time only) $95.85 10% $49.79 9% $205.80 12%
Total Utilities $311.23 33% $204.25 39% $596.35 34%
  Gas** $144.15   $49.33   $240.69  
  Electricity** $196.38   $122.31   $301.16  
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $237.72   $153.81   $467.70  
  Other Utilities** $55.89   $26.67   $104.42  
Total Equipment & Supplies $61.20 7% $40.27 8% $105.46 6%
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $38.49   $26.82   $60.00  
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $15.93   $9.09   $39.60  
Vehicle Maintenance $9.92 1% $5.39 1% $21.66 1%
Total M&O Budget* $938.16 100% $524.18 100% $1,771.05 100%
% M&O of Total College Budget 10%   10%   10%  
*Calculated from subtotals (in green).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

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

 
      All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Salaries $1.87 $1.80 $1.95
Benefits (based on full-time only) $0.51 $0.47 $0.52
Total Utilities $1.47 $1.48 $1.41
  Gas** $0.36 $0.33 $0.38
  Electricity** $0.89 $1.00 $0.69
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.25 $1.32 $1.18
  Other Utilities** $0.19 $0.21 $0.19
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.31 $0.32 $0.26
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.19 $0.23 $0.15
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.08 $0.08 $0.09
Vehicle Maintenance $0.05 $0.05 $0.06
Total M&O Budget* $4.21 $4.12 $4.20
Sq. ft. of bldg. maint. per FTE student 183 118 399
*Calculated from subtotals (in light blue).
**Based on fewer responses than the total due to schools that combine some of these categories.

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

Function Two-Year Four-Year All Colleges
Administrative $54,310.00 $50,000.00 $52,500.00
Custodial/Housekeeping $24,083.33 $21,739.97 $22,515.33
Engineer/Architect $62,962.00 $54,163.00 $57,120.00
Grounds $25,115.00 $25,213.70 $25,150.00
Maintenance $29,400.00 $30,046.70 $29,816.60
Secretarial/Clerical $25,955.41 $24,072.00 $25,937.71
Motor Pool $30,000.00 $30,000.00 $30,000.00
Security $28,213.75 $27,434.75 $28,000.00

Medians by institution type

Category All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Sq. ft. of bldg. maintained per student 183 118 399
Sq. ft. maintained per custodial employee 30,960 29,206 34,144
Sq. ft. maintained per maintenance employee 70,062 70,063 69,898
Acres maintained per grounds employee 25 33 20
Total reported 2004-05 M&O Budget $1.56 million $1.60 million $1.41 million

Number of buildings at institution

1 building 4%
2 to 5 buildings 9%
6 to 10 buildings 19%
11 to 20 buildings 28%
More than 20 buildings 36%
No answer 4%

Total gross area maintained of all buildings

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

Less than 100,000 sq. ft. 9%
100,000 to 199,999 sq. ft. 12%
200,000 to 299,999 sq. ft. 10%
300,000 to 399,999 sq. ft. 11%
400,000 to 499,999 sq. ft. 7%
500,000 to 749,999 sq. ft. 15%
750,000 sq. ft. or more 26%
No answer 10%

Agron is editor-in-chief of AS&U. 

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