Campus Insights From the Facilities Stewardship Series

Gordian recently wrapped up a four-part webinar series in partnership with NACUBO. The “Facilities Stewardship Webcast Series” brought together higher education insiders to discuss pressing issues facing facilities and finance leaders, including capital strategy, space optimization, debt, deferred capital renewal, the state of facilities in higher education and more. Here are the top insights from our conversations.

Episode 1: Integrating Campus Mission, Capital Strategy and Space Optimization

In our first webcast, Sharron Scott, Chief Financial and Operating Officer at the Vermont State College System, shared that a $30 million funding gap and new demographic challenges created a perfect storm that nearly forced the closure of several campuses. Leaders avoided such drastic action thanks to assistance from the state, but the close call renewed engagement from a cross section of constituent groups, who were awoken to what “economic engines” and community engagement centers the campuses are, thereby reinforcing the need to preserve them.

“By beginning with the data, you can help understand exactly where you need to go.” – Sharron Scott | Chief Financial and Operating Officer, Vermont State College System

The state college system has over $200 million in deferred maintenance, and possessing clear data about its facilities is essential for clear-eyed facilities stewardship. Couple the backlog with skyrocketing costs of construction, and the availability of data for strong decision making becomes even more important. Campus leaders can now cut through the emotional factors that often impede smart facilities management and make the most of their budget while remaining faithful to the campus mission.

“For me it’s about following the data,” Scott said, “and that data includes understanding what your deferred maintenance profile looks like, understanding your conditions of your facilities, understanding exactly what space you’re using, how you’re using it, when you’re using it, and who is using it. By beginning with the data, you can help understand exactly where you need to go.”

For more insights into challenges facing campus leaders and how we can help you solve them, visit our higher education page.

Episode 2: Social Equity, Culture and Campus Investment

Deborah Wallace, Vice President of Administration and Finance for California State University, Dominguez Hills, has served in various roles in education for 27 years. She shared that her campus is dedicated to “transforming lives that transform America” and was founded with social justice roots. Nearly 90% of students are students of color, and almost 50% are first generation students. The data and messaging around facilities maintenance are paramount for aiding their success.

“There is a whole science around the way that we help students to thrive. What we’re trying to do is to create very strategic plans,” Wallace said. “[We ask,] ‘If we don’t make changes to those facilities, what will be the impact on student success?’ We have to really advocate…we have to be really intentional about creating deferred maintenance around these facilities because if you don’t, here is the impact. We need to know how our facilities support our under-resourced community.”

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Episode 3: The 2023 State of Facilities

Lander Medlin, President and CEO of APPA, and Mike Moss, President of the Society for College and University Planning, joined us for a comprehensive discussion on trends revealed in the tenth edition of our “State of Facilities in Higher Education” report.

Moss shared the need for constant assessment and updating of campus facilities plans to be successful. “There is a difference between doing planning and being a planner; all of us do planning…the intentionality of how we do that planning in the absence being a planner is really an opportunity for all of us in our roles to have that mindset of contribution and plan, do, check and act,” he said.

Medlin elaborated that the APPA membership has been focusing on the need for a comprehensive community response to trends emerging from a rapidly changing higher education environment. “We have this mindset that we can grow our way out of debt,” she said. “This is a mindset that we can’t avail ourselves of at these institutions. We have to think of different levers we can pull.”

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Episode 4: The Debt Burden of Capital Renewal in an Inflationary Environment

This session’s speaker, Lauren Cox, Vice President of Finance and Administration at Catawba College, shared some of her experience on both higher ed campuses and in private industry. A robust discussion of balancing existing debt in the form of deferred capital renewal versus issuing new debt for construction projects ensued. Other creative options for dealing with debt, such as letting buildings go offline, were also discussed.

“We did work with Gordian to get data on deferred maintenance. For us, having deferred maintenance data – it’s an easy thing to bring into a cabinet meeting for budget planning, it’s an easy board presentation because you are actually stating, ‘We have X number of buildings and X amount of dollars in deferred maintenance that we need to be planning each year,” Cox said.

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Facilities Stewardship Insights You Can Act On

With the higher education landscape shifting faster than ever, it takes informed, adaptable strategies to optimize your campus assets. Gordian will continue to offer insights and expertise to help you develop actionable plans that position your school for success.

About Gordian

Gordian is the leader in facility and construction cost data, software and services for all phases of the building lifecycle. A pioneer of Job Order Contracting, Gordian’s solutions also include proprietary RSMeans data construction costs and Facility Intelligence Solutions. From planning to design, to procurement, construction and operations, Gordian’s solutions help clients maximize efficiency, optimize cost savings and increase building quality.