Space management has always been a critical issue for higher education institutions, but recent enrollment trends are making it much more pressing. Nationally, enrollment has grown nearly 12% between 2007 and 2013. Across the same time period, campus space grew only 6%. The resulting tightening space has restricted some institutions’ ability to execute on academic and financial priorities, such as launching new research or academic programs.
This study outlines best practices and strategies for improving the use of underutilized spaces. Download the complete publication or explore the table of contents to learn more about each space.
Why not just build to grow?
Today’s higher education space needs are far more complex and costly than the institutional concerns seen over the past half-century. Historically, institutions have accommodated new faculty and students with renovations or new buildings, but with revenue declines, rising operational costs, and enrollment growth that has far outpaced growth in the past decade, this "build to grow" mentality has proven to be unsustainable.
Facilities leaders should instead work with academic leaders to redeploy underutilized campus space.
A problem of excess, not shortage
Despite common rhetoric, many institutions are not facing a crisis of space shortage but rather missing opportunities to utilize existing spaces. Throughout our research we found a handful of some of the most egregious examples of misused spaces—such as departments scheduling fake courses to box other units out of certain classrooms. Many of these missed opportunities are the result of decisions made decades ago when space was expanding faster than enrollment.
During our research interviews, one institution estimated that by redeploying just 2% of its general education space the campus can avoid new construction for several years. At a cost of $300 per square foot, the university will save $45 million in avoided construction fees. Due to academic leaders active role in space management, involving them in the process can help to produce substantial revenue savings opportunities.
The nine best practices in the remainder of this study will help you address both challenges and incentivize your academic leaders to redeploy underutilized spaces.
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Working with Academic Leaders to Improve Space Utilization