Report Describes Deteriorating Conditions on College Campuses
Lake Ozark — The Coordinating Board for Higher Education today accepted a report on the facilities at Missouri's public colleges and universities that details severe shortcomings in capacity, quality and condition.
Staff of the Missouri Department of Higher Education conducted facility reviews at each of the state's 13 four-year and 21 two-year campuses last summer. The report includes descriptions of each campus's most serious facility challenges and their capital priorities.
Zora Mulligan, MDHE assistant commissioner, led the review and saw firsthand the deteriorating state of many higher education facilities. The problems generally fall into three categories, Mulligan says: quantity and quality of space, poor conditions of science facilities, and a backlog of maintenance and repairs.
"Missouri campuses have tremendous curb appeal. They are well-kept, clean and attractive. But our facilities review looked behind the scenes," Mulligan says. "We checked out boiler rooms, roofs and storage areas, as well as public spaces like classrooms and auditoriums. We found schools coping with outdated laboratories, buildings that have exceeded their useful life span, and a host of maintenance issues that have led to major problems."
The report cites dramatically increased student enrollments as one reason for capacity issues, as well as changing career trends and the challenges of off-site and online instruction. Nearly every institution is "at capacity" in nursing and/or allied health programs, for example, and even distance learning courses demand space on campus to deliver the programs. As enrollment expands and new teachers are hired to meet demand, some campuses have converted closets and storage areas to accommodate them.
The report notes that some college laboratories date from the 1960s. While many have been renovated, a few 40- to 50-year-old labs remain. Some that have undergone renovation still do not meet current technology requirements. Many do not provide the flexible configurations for updated learning styles such as hands-on research and collaborative learning.
"A statewide strategic goal is to educate more students in math, science, technology and engineering," says Mulligan, "This requires equipment and facilities that have kept pace with industry. Many institutions have been able to upgrade through fund-raising campaigns or industry partnerships, but the sad fact is that some students find their college labs fall short of expectations."
The report says, "Every public college and university in the state has a substantial backlog of deferred maintenance -- projects that have been put off because funds are not available to complete them."
Higher education industry standards recommend that colleges spend about 1.5 percent of the total replacement value of their physical plant on maintenance and repair each year, according to Deputy Commissioner of Higher Education Paul Wagner. "Many colleges have not been able to maintain this level of spending. They've had to defer maintenance in order to preserve resources for the classroom as enrollments and other cost pressures have gone up," Wagner says. "Unfortunately, deferring needed maintenance can result in even more expensive repairs in the future."
The facility review found pervasive problems such as cracked and peeling paint, water-damaged ceilings and walls, buckling floor tiles, aging plumbing and electrical systems, elevators that no longer meet code and inefficient heating and cooling systems. Safety issues such as overloaded electrical systems, aging boilers and compromised brick facades surfaced in some cases.
Commissioner of Higher Education Robert Stein says the report provides a wealth of information that can be used as a baseline for regular reviews in the future. "The report provides concrete examples for decision-makers about conditions found on college campuses and will serve as a foundation to inform public policy as the Department of Higher Education reviews capital priority guidelines."
The full report, including facility descriptions and priorities for each campus, is available on the MDHE Website, www.mdhe.mo.gov