Colleges, universities suffer $1.7 billion maintenance lag

Monday, May 20, 2013

From buildings filled with mold to faulty water and sewer systems that back up into classrooms, higher education leaders across Louisiana are growing increasingly concerned with the state’s backlog in repairing and renovating campus facilities.

The state Board of Regents estimates that colleges and universities are looking at a $1.7 billion price tag to address maintenance that’s been put off year after year for lack of state funds.

Most agree that the culprit is Louisiana’s sluggish and inefficient construction funding program, called capital outlay, in which hundreds of projects compete for limited state dollars. Campus leaders say small problems often turn into major health and safety concerns as repair requests languish for years or even decades in the capital outlay pipeline.

State Commissioner of Higher Education Jim Purcell called the backlog a significant problem, noting the cost of deferred maintenance on Louisiana’s college campuses has reached the point where it’s more than double the amount of money schools will have available to educate students next year.

Purcell and others have said the leaky roofs, outdated laboratories and the delay in making buildings handicap-accessible are putting Louisiana at a competitive disadvantage in recruiting students and training them to meet workforce demands.

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