Modern and Well-maintained Campus Facilities Influence Higher Education Campus Enrollments

Esther Carlson| August 24, 2021

Challenges to Continuous Higher Education Facility Optimization

The competitive environment in the higher education marketplace in terms of campuses attracting students to attend their school is at an all-time high. It turns out that staying on top of maintaining, renovating and adding new buildings to campus facilities is critical for ensuring the best possible impression when prospective students visit a school in person or online.

But, there are challenges. One such example is specifically associated with the volatility that occurs from enrollment trends. Schools cannot rely solely on enrollment growth for facilities-related funding. In addition, there are staggering backlogs in deferred maintenance, deteriorating building spaces, and an urgency to build new and necessary facilities – regardless of whether student enrollment is up or down.

While many schools are taking steps to invest more strategically in facilities resources, the requirements for renovating deteriorating spaces are being seriously underestimated as risky investments into new facilities are being made simultaneously.

Facilities Matter When it Comes to School Selection

As surprising as it might sound, facilities on campus are considered more important than the reputation of a higher education campus when it comes to students choosing which university they will attend. In a survey of 2,000 students, commissioned by the Association of University Directors of Estates, two-thirds (67 percent) of survey respondents viewed facilities as crucial to making a decision while 47 percent viewed reputation as important. The most significant factors were course and location – 79 percent and 69 percent, respectively.
Bowling Green University is just one example of a university or college that believes their increased enrollment is a direct result of building new facilities and renovating older buildings. According to Vice Provost for Strategic Enrollment Planning Cecilia Castellano, the condition of their facilities is a significant contributor to attracting students to Bowling Green.

And the numbers support his opinion. Bowling Green achieved higher enrollment rates three years in a row. The University’s newly constructed facilities on campus, in addition to partnerships around the globe, have played a significant role in attracting a larger freshmen class – with an increased GPA average.

The University of Nebraska’s president Hank Bounds had this to say about the role facilities plays in students and faculty members choosing the University of Nebraska. “We are operating in the most competitive higher education marketplace of our lifetimes,” he said. “The University of Nebraska has ambitious goals for attracting the best students and faculty who can contribute to Nebraska’s workforce and economic needs. If we are to be successful, it’s vital that we provide safe, updated and functional facilities that are suited to 21st-century learning and research.

There are a range of building types that contribute to a more complete education of students. They include: recreation centers, student center buildings, residential buildings, dining halls, student success offices and similar facilities that provide space, programs, experiences and challenges. While these buildings do not replace what is in the classroom, the question is whether they should be the primary reason a student selects a college. The answer is likely yes, as their importance is also linked to educational reasons – and not only competitive ones.

Buildings are Woefully Under-maintained

What’s we’re finding is that facilities teams at higher education campuses have accumulated staggering backlogs in deferred maintenance. At least $47.2 billion will be required to cover new construction, renovation, and retrofitting over the next five years for the combined systems of The University of California, California State University, and California Community College. This according a report released by the College Futures Foundation, an organization focused on increasing access to education in California.

While the cost of replacing facilities is almost always higher than the cost of renovations, there comes a time when these buildings must be replaced. In the meantime, higher education campuses must find ways to fund the cost of deferred maintenance such as state bond measures and funds. Unfortunately, private philanthropy donors are more likely to respond to funding requests for new construction.

Transforming Facilities Management on the Higher Education Campus

Higher education continues to be a priority and competing for students will not slow down any time soon. Campus facilities managers have a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate strategic thinking, planning and execution when it comes to effective higher education facilities management. But they’ll need some help – in the form of technology.

Establishing a foundation for strategic facilities management starts with ensuring all building information has been retained and is easily accessible. Building information that can used to stay current with preventive and ongoing maintenance while reducing deferred maintenance backlogs.

The ARC Facilities solution provides higher education campus facilities managers with the ability to easily access digitally-stored building information from our mobile facilities dashboard. Our experts in building information and digital storage and retrieval convert paper documents into digital files facilities teams can access in seconds via a ready-to-use, intuitive interface.

View this short video now to learn more.

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