Tough Times: 10th annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study

Results from AS&U's 10th annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study

Difficult economic conditions continue to be a drag on college budgets, and contributed to institutions cutting back on the percentage spent on maintaining and operating their facilities.

Spending on maintenance and operations (M&O) as a percentage of total college budget dropped to 9.5 percent (from 10 percent last year) according to American School & University's 10th annual College Maintenance and Operations Cost Study. The decrease in percentage spending came even as energy and utilities costs skyrocketed.

Behind the study

In October, physical plant directors at two-year colleges and four-year institutions with no significant graduate programs were mailed a detailed questionnaire asking them to document various M&O costs for the 2003-04 school year.

The survey specifically targets two-year colleges and four-year institutions with no significant graduate programs in order to provide useful comparative data. 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.

The tables and charts that follow — which detail M&O expenditures at two-year, four-year and all colleges — identify median expenditures for M&O per full-time-equivalent (FTE) student and per square foot, as well as the incidence of various maintenance practices.

Table 1 outlines median M&O expenditures per 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.

The most significant finding is that two-year colleges posted a significant drop in the percentage of total budget allocated to M&O this year over the previous year (9 percent compared with 12 percent). Two-year institutions also spend a larger percentage of their M&O dollars on salaries (48 percent compared with 41 percent at four-year institutions).

In addition, energy and utilities costs per student and per square foot significantly increased. For all colleges, the median cost per student for total utilities skyrocketed 35 percent over the year before; the median cost per square foot jumped 15 percent.

Table 2 details median M&O expenditures per square foot of building maintained. As has been noted in past studies, 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 (462 square feet per student compared with 128 square feet per student at two-year colleges). The median college maintains 207 square feet per student.

Table 3 lists 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.

Additional survey highlights

  • The amount of square feet maintained per custodian increased rather significantly from last year, totaling 33,429 at all colleges (30,306 square feet last year). At two-year colleges, the number of square feet maintained per custodian was 30,414; at four-year institutions it was 38,182.

  • Square feet maintained per maintenance worker jumped this year to 68,954 compared with 64,248 last year.

  • The number of acres maintained per grounds employee also increased this year to 27 compared with 24 last year.

  • The median total utilities cost for all colleges is $654,000; the median annual vehicle maintenance cost is $14,000 per institution.

  • Engineers and architects receive the highest median salaries at colleges, but only 15 percent of institutions reported having one on staff.

  • Colleges typically add 25.5 percent to all base salaries in the form of fringe benefits.

  • The median number of buildings on a two-year college campus is 15; the median number of buildings on a four-year campus is 19.

  • When it comes to contracting out M&O services, 25 percent of all colleges, 19 percent of two-year and 32 percent of four-year institutions do.

 

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

      All Colleges % Two-Year % Four-Year %
Salaries $405.63 44% $288.19 48% $723.11 41%
Benefits (based on full-time only) $100.42 11% $78.57 13% $168.93 10%
Total Utilities $336.21 37% $190.38 32% $711.14 40%  
  Gas** $74.94   $37.13   $179.09  
  Electricity** $187.51   $136.81   $294.12  
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $267.89   $162.50   $479.02  
  Other Utilities** $53.57   $22.80   129.95  
Total Equipment & Supplies $62.90 7% $38.62 6% $138.32 8%
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $46.42   $24.33   $78.14  
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $19.16   $7.87   $41.44  
Vehicle Maintenance $12.24 1% $4.91 1% $20.14 1%
Total M&O Budget* $917.40 100% $600.67 100% $1,761.64 100%
% M&O of Total College Budget 9.5%   9.0%   10.0%  
*Calculated from subtotals (in blue).
**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 $1.89 $2.25 $1.59
Benefits (based on full-time only) $0.46 $0.58 $0.39
Total Utilities $1.65 $1.73 $1.51
  Gas** $0.38 $0.28 $0.47
  Electricity** $0.90 $1.12 $0.66
    Gas & Electricity (subtotal) $1.24 $1.49 $1.10
  Other Utilities** $0.21 $0.20 $0.22
Total Equipment & Supplies $0.28 $0.29 $0.27
  Custodial/Maint. Equip. & Supplies** $0.20 $0.21 $0.16  
  Grounds Equip. & Supplies** $0.08 $0.07 $0.09
Vehicle Maintenance $0.05 $0.04 $0.05
Total M&O Budget* $4.33 $4.89 $3.81
Sq. ft. of bldg. maint. per FTE student 207 128 462
*Calculated from subtotals (in 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 $53,700 $45,700 $50,000
Custodial $22,667 $20,174 $21,013
Engineer/Architect $56,250 $67,686 $62,575
Grounds $27,572 $26,544 $27,204
Maintenance $34,196 $30,000 $32,398
Secretarial/Clerical $27,299 $24,884 $26,400
Motor Pool $30,000 $30,468 $30,000
Security $28,165 $24,499 $27,462

It's in the details

Following are medians by institution type:

Category All Colleges Two-Year Four-Year
Sq. ft. of bldg. maintained per student 207 128 462
Sq. ft. maintained per custodial employee 33,429 30,414 38,182
Sq. ft. maintained per maintenance employee 68,954 63,257 72,222
Acres maintained per grounds employee 27 35 18
Total reported 2003-04 M&O Budget $2.10 million $2.10 million $2.14 million

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. 10%
200,000 to 299,999 sq. ft. 11%
300,000 to 399,999 sq. ft. 8%
400,000 to 499,999 sq. ft. 10%
500,000 to 749,999 sq. ft. 18%
750,000 sq. ft. or more 21%
No answer 13%

Number of buildings at institution

1 building 2%
2 to 5 buildings 12%
6 to 10 buildings 18%
11 to 20 buildings 26%
More than 20 buildings 40%
No answer 2%

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

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