Building irony

Why are Kansas universities continuing to build new buildings when they can’t afford to take care of the ones they already have?

February 3, 2011


There is a certain irony in the members of the Kansas Board of Regents citing $876 million in deferred maintenance needs at state universities at the same time they are approving new building projects, such as a $4 million expansion of the Library Annex on Kansas University’s West Campus.

It’s true that the library project, approved last month, will be paid for with private dollars, but do those contributions include money for future maintenance of the building? Or will the new building add to the maintenance responsibilities that the state already is unable to meet?

The library expansion at KU probably is a good project and it certainly isn’t the only new building that has been approved on the state’s six university campuses in recent years, but how can universities and the regents justify building new buildings at the same time they claim existing buildings are being seriously neglected? Are we just going to let existing buildings crumble beyond repair and replace them with new structures?

As Regents Chairman Gary Sherrer pointed out, “As any homeowner knows, routine maintenance and repair gets more expensive to fix the longer it’s deferred.” That statement may be designed to spur legislators to approve more maintenance funds, but it also raises questions about the regents’ priorities when it comes to protecting state-owned buildings.


Carol Bowen 7 years, 4 months ago

Good point. We should also mention staffing the new buildings. Include instruction supplies and equipment. (computers for labs and offices, media equipment)

Bob_Keeshan 7 years, 4 months ago

Didn't the Legislature pass a law a few years back requiring new building projects to set aside funds for maintenance?

If so, this editorial couldn't be more off base. In fact, it would be downright irresponsible.

You would think a little research would be done so the local paper wouldn't totally embarrass itself. Once it is done, you would think this paper would have the courage to run a retraction.

voevoda 7 years, 4 months ago

Yes, the Legislature set aside some funding (not enough) for deferred maintenance just before the financial crisis hit. Then they took all that money back to balance the state budget.
Now a group in the Legislature is proposing that university employees take a 7.5% pay cut so that the money for deferred maintenance can be restored. That means shifting money from university employees--most of whom are very modestly compensated--to wealthy construction companies.

Jack Martin 7 years, 4 months ago

KSA 76-790 requires privately-financed building projects to have a plan "to provide for the annual maintenance and operation costs" of the building project. That was done in this instance, as it was with all other privately financed buildings since the law was passed in 2007.

areyousure 7 years, 4 months ago

One reason for a new building - in order to expand enrollment, more room is needed. There has to be room for more classrooms and instructors along with administrative staff. The Pharmacy School and Engineering needed more space to handle increased enrollments.

In order to increase enrollment, programs need to have the facilities to attract top students. The current buildings were built a long time ago. Updating the technology needed for how modern colleges teach is not always possible in the older buildings. It is hard to recruit top students when other schools at peer institutions have the equipment and facilities that are not available at KU.

One complaint that has been made about the state universities is that they need to have higher rankings. One thing that affects those rankings is facilities.

Expanding current buildings is not always an option. Engineering could. They have open space beside Eaton Hall. Pharmacy didn't have that option. The Business School doesn't really have space to expand.

The current buildings are not in great shape. The plumbing in some of those buildings are over fifty years old and fail on a regular basis. It could be expensive to totally renovate those buildings to modern standards. Perhaps it's not such a bad idea to spend a little more money and get brand new facilities with up to date technology for classrooms and staff.

There is also an advantage to other programs when a school builds a new building. All the classroom space and space used for faculty and administrative offices for the Pharmacy program are now available for other programs and departments. The same would happen if the Business School ever builds a new building.

Carol Bowen 7 years, 4 months ago

In tough budget times, it becomes a capacity issue. If the student population is a approximately the same as ten years ago, why does KU need more programs and facilities? Is there another way to address the need to attract more students. Is KU trying to compete with other universities for the same students? Science programs need to invest in outreach at the elementary and secondary school levels. There are very few students considering the sciences.

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