Deferred maintenance bill on Canadian campuses totals $3.6 billion


Canadian universities are facing mounting costs for repairs to classrooms, residences and other buildings on campus, according to a report released today.

University campuses face at least $3.6 billion in accumulated deferred maintenance, says a report issued by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“The survey confirms our worst fears on the state of Canadian university campuses,” says Duncan Watt, chair of the CAUBO steering committee which provided direction for the report. “University facilities have deteriorated to the point where the capability of the physical infrastructure to support the academic mission and the core functions of learning and research is threatened.”

“Sharp declines in government operating funding over the past decade have led to the situation we find ourselves in today”, adds Robert J. Giroux, president of AUCC. “Governments must be prepared to act quickly to address deferred maintenance requirements on campus or risk even higher costs into the future.”

Other findings of the survey include:

* The tab for accumulated deferred maintenance represents approximately $5,561 for each full-time equivalent student, or $214 per square metre of currently existing building space.

* Of the $3.6 billion total worth of accumulated deferred maintenance, more than $1 billion is considered urgent, meaning that conditions should be addressed in the very near future in order not to incur further deterioration and increased costs.

* The ratio of deferred maintenance to the cost of replacing the physical infrastructure on university campuses is over 60 per cent higher in Canada than it is in the United States, and is two to four times higher than generally accepted guidelines.

Accumulated deferred maintenance refers to the backlog of maintenance repairs and renewal projects that universities have not been able to afford to carry out. The survey is based on data from 51 universities, which account for some 87.5 per cent of Canada's total university enrolment. The dollar value for all universities has been extrapolated using reliable accounting procedures.

Editor's note: McMaster's accumulated deferred maintenance is approximately $71.6 million, according to director of physical plant Bob Carter. Funding from Superbuild, announced in February, has reduced that amount by $13 million.