Campus facilities tend to go mostly unremarked. They shelter us, keep us comfortable, and enable us to focus on higher education’s core missions of advancing knowledge and educating students, but for all their size and necessity, we somehow manage to ignore facilities. Until we can’t ignore them anymore.
Years of economic lethargy, severe cutbacks in state funding, and anemic endowment growth have forced many institutions to defer already long-deferred maintenance: Cost estimates of total deferred maintenance at campuses nationwide range from tens of billions to more than 100 billion dollars. But this same fiscal backdrop can make it politically difficult to invest in sorely needed infrastructure renovation and new buildings. At the same time, campus long-range planning committees are confronting the quandary of how to plan facilities for the future of higher education without knowing what that future will look like.
This special issue of The Presidency shines a spotlight on a part of higher education that is becoming central to key policy decisions, from financing and accountability to questions about whether a physical campus is even necessary for higher education to take place:
- A wide spectrum of campus leaders and outside experts reveal their proven communication strategies for winning bond elections, working social media, and addressing the often-conflicting concerns of diverse constituencies;
- California State University, East Bay President Leroy M. Morishita shares practical advice and best practices for proactively addressing deferred maintenance, even under difficult budget pressure;
- A piece by consultants with front-line expertise in making campuses greener gives us a top 10 list of ways to make colleges and universities more efficient with less money;
- Hiram College (OH) President Thomas V. Chema gives us a first-hand case study on how to leverage unused campus land to serve both the endowment and the mission of a small liberal arts college; and
- Society for College and University Planning experts and campus planners explore how institutions can prepare for their future teaching and research needs: Amid rapid changes in both technology and pedagogy, campus leaders must plan facilities that anticipate the learning needs of students and the laboratory needs of researchers who will make the discoveries of tomorrow.
Needless to say, we’re not taking facilities as much for granted anymore. As summer arrives and the economy continues its slow blooming, we hope this issue’s practical knowledge, tools, and strategic insights help you successfully manage the present and plan for the future.