Excerpt from Construction Dive:

In an era when state-of-the art facilities are necessary to draw top-notch staff as well as students, university and college administrators are left with the painful process of deciding which projects are a go and which will be shelved for yet another year.

Some schools, like private Beacon College in Leesburg, FL, are leaving the construction funding decisions up to third-party experts. Tom Brown, the school's director of human resources and risk management, said Beacon decided to contract its facilities management to Sodexo. This allows Beacon to take advantage of the "economies of scale," he said, that would otherwise be out of reach to a school with a just a few hundred students. For example, Brown said Sodexo's access to vendor discounts allows the facilities manager to stretch the school's budget, which is largely dependent on tuition and an annual fundraising campaign.

Even with those advantages, Brown said the school still must prioritize its maintenance and construction budgets, particularly with a current expansion through downtown Leesburg underway. Upgrades and improvements that are of the biggest benefit to students — such as campus beautification, more office and classroom space and athletic fields — go to the top of the list, but sometimes the decisions aren't clear-cut, according to Brown. "It's a balancing act," he said. "You have to maintain buildings that you have, but you also have to expand as well."

No matter what the enrollment size or endowment of a university or college, there is always a struggle as to where to allocate funds, according to Tony Miliote, vice president of the tri-state institutional division for Shawmut Design and Construction. Shawmut counts Harvard, Yale and New York University among its clients, but despite healthy construction budgets, "It doesn’t mean you have unlimited funds," Miliote said. "No one has that." No matter the school, there's always the fiduciary responsibility of deciding which project will return "the most bang for the buck," he said.

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