Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Public HBCUs' Financial Resource Distribution Disparities in Capital Spending

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Public HBCUs' Financial Resource Distribution Disparities in Capital Spending

Article excerpt

While higher education is becoming a dynamic, global commodity, facilities management is becoming increasingly more complex (Kaiser, 2009). Research, conducted by higher education scholars, identifies the challenges associated with "aging and expanding facilities" as one of the top change drivers in the field, exceeded only by insufficient financial resources, technological upgrades, and student demographic transformations (Fried, 2011). Not surprisingly, facilities' needs, encompassing new construction, capital renewals, maintenance and repairs, and major equipment upgrades, have been increasing, in part driven by technological revolutions (Kaiser, 2009), Due to the enormous non-recurring investment costs, capital spending has often been pushed aside for other priorities (Marmolejo, 2007).

States' physical plant or capital asset funds subsidize the cost of higher education, new construction, infrastructure renovations, major repairs and upgrades, land purchases and the acquisition of major equipment (Brown & Gamber, 2002). The states' governing boards appropriate dollars for facilities requirements as a major maintenance component for operations and maintenance (O&M) or as a special legislative line item enacted for specific construction projects (Marmolejo, 2007). The choice is made according to the strategy most acceptable to campus budgeting practices (Marmolejo, 2007). However, Kaiser (2009) insists O&M and special capital spending for new, renewal, and deferred maintenance projects directly influence the campus community's appeal and the institution's environment. The importance of facilities' appearance to student recruitment is underscored by the 1987 study of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on how students choose a college. For 62% of the students surveyed, the appearance of the buildings and grounds was the most influential factor during campus visits (Kaiser, 2009).

Today's buildings, grounds, infrastructure, and equipment, collectively amassed to support academic instruction, are the legacy of the dramatic growth of new and existing campuses (Kaiser, 2009). As age, size, and complexity of buildings continue to grow, so does the amount of maintenance that is required to sustain the campus environments that accommodate the students, faculty, and staff (Marmolejo, 2007). Virtually all postsecondary institutions undertake major capital improvement programs annually because more than one-half of the current campus facilities were constructed after World War II, when enrollment grew 600%, from 2.3 million students in 1950 to more than 14 million students by 1995 (Kaiser, 2009).

Marmolejo (2007) contends that resource scarcity and affordability are the top critical facilities issues threatening the success of higher education institutions, because of the initial cost and the fact that most postsecondary institutions do not have consistent or adequate revenue streams to repay outstanding debt. The common practice of deferring standard maintenance of college and university facilities has forced many institutions to face extensive renovations and the total replacement of some buildings (Brown & Gamber, 2002). On a national level, the total accumulated deferred maintenance for all public and private higher education institutions in 1994 was S26 billion, with S5.7 billion defined as urgent needs (Kaiser, 2009). Those figures are considered to be significantly more costly in 2012. Urgent needs, for example, could include upgrades to a suite of laboratories; replacements for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC); electrical systems; and plumbing systems or construction projects with a larger scope for space (Kaiser, 2009).

Public financial investments in higher education institutions are necessary for states to fulfill the needs of its citizens and to remain economically competitive (Cohen & Kisker, 2010). For the public institutions, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) were denied the resources given to similarly situated, predominantly white institutions (PWI; Gasman et al. …

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