Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

mnabersState spending on college construction continues

by Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Public spending is being curtailed throughout the country…but not on college campuses. Interestingly enough, spending on college construction tends to rise in both good and bad times and to fall when state spending and budgets are fairly stable. A recent study from the University of Illinois suggests that one reason is because higher education construction usually is financed through debt and the projects are not dependent upon taxpayer funding.

Funding for college operations will definitely be down in 2011 but the study concludes that college and university funding will not fall by the same degree as other public entities.

And, construction spending on college campuses does not resemble construction spending in areas such as highways, infrastructure, etc. Many factors – population growth, enrollment increases, economic development efforts and politics in general have an impact on construction. But, overall, construction projects on college campuses tend to be more resistive to the normal pressures that curtail spending in tough economic times.

Some current examples include the following projects:

  • Construction is expected to begin in March on a $20 million student center and dormitory at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg campus. The 81,000-square-foot facility will include approximately 200 beds, a food court and meeting and game rooms. The building should be completed by fall 2012.
  • The University of Washington will begin a $250 million renovation of Husky Stadium. Construction is expected to begin in November 2011, and will include 25 suites, 25 loge boxes and more than 2,500 club seats.
  • A $118 million Keystone Center is being planned for East Stroudsburg University in Pennsylvania. The center will house a new library and computer center and several academic departments.
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio is developing its Park West Athletics Complex in phases. The $22 million Phase 1 will include design and construction of soccer and track facilities, roadway, a surface parking lot and infrastructure. Bids for construction are expected to be solicited next year. Other phases of the project will include the addition of more athletic fields and facilities for tennis, baseball, softball and football.

Construction firms that are currently ignoring this attractive marketplace may be wise to rethink their position. The emphasis on education as well as competition between colleges and universities for student enrollment will ensure that construction activity continues for many years.

Mary Scott Nabers is president and CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc., a 15-year-old procurement consulting and procurement research firm headquartered in Austin, Texas.

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