- Four colleges and universities in San Diego are planning major facility expansion in the next few years. San Diego State University, the University of San Diego, UC-San Diego and the NewSchool of Architecture and Design are eyeing more than $5.3 billion in new facility construction, renovations and new leasing over the next several years according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
- Leaders from each of the four campuses discussed the upcoming projects at a recent civic meeting and outlined the need for new facilities in helping to keep pace with the city’s growing industrial and residential imprint. Transportation and environmental concerns, and the growing need to give college students an "urban" living experience while on campus, were among their top justifications for the collective building boom.
- Campus executives said mixed-use approaches to their projects would create industrial synergy with the schools, create higher prospects for student retention and graduation, and bring commercial presence to the city which could alleviate traffic with more goods and services being readily available.
A recent report from Sightlines found that across the continent, universities are deploying "high-risk" campus growth strategies — between 2007-2016 there has been a 10% rise in campus facilities, which has outpaced the 8% enrollment increase over the same period. Sightlines President Mark Schiff called this trend "extraordinary," given the "large segments of aging building stock and flattening if not declining enrollment trends."
In California, the public college system’s deferred maintenance bill is estimated at $47 billion. And while smart community development must be a top priority for presidents and chancellors charged with growing enrollment and finding private partners to help in financing their campus academic enterprises, it is important to balance these priorities against an already strained budget. As resources from federal and state governments are reduced, and online degree programs become more attractive to traditional and continuing learners, campuses will have to distinguish themselves to potential students in several ways.
First, students must be able to see the value in living and learning in a campus community. This requires schools to work with public safety and public works officials to provide a consistent presentation of safety and cleanliness. In the case of Grand Canyon University, a for-profit known for its online model, President Brian Mueller said the university is putting $1 million into classrooms because building a "sense of community" and "belonging" for the 18-year old students who want to enroll is important to their academic experience.
Second, students are attracted to campuses with programs which translate to specific careers. This means that schools and colleges must establish workforce pipelines which can be marketed in a variety of ways to both in and out-of-state prospective students. Finally, campuses must be branded as resources to the outside community. Leaders must translate school missions into ways that deans, professors, and students make the campus a value-add to residents, businesses, state agencies and a city's collective civic pride. Building upon these three elements sets the foundation for facility construction and renovation priorities and establishes the campus as an appealing destination for students, business partners, and investors from public and private sectors.