ELKO Nev.—Nevada’s colleges and universities are facing an expensive and expanding backlog in maintenance projects, a dilemma that has administrators grappling with how to pay for it.
A report presented to the Board of Regents said the higher education system should be investing at least $60 million a year to maintain buildings and infrastructure, but spends only a fraction of that amount.
The Board of Regents, meeting Friday in Elko, was told the University of Nevada, Las Vegas faces a $286 million backlog, while University of Nevada, Reno is looking at nearly $900 million in maintenance projects.
System-wide, more than $300 million in projects are considered critical over the next two years. Over the next decade, deferred maintenance is expected to exceed $1.3 billion.
“This is urgent stuff, things we should be doing right now,” said Vic Redding, vice chancellor of finance for the Nevada System of Higher Education.
He noted problems with an air conditioning system forced the cancellation of classes for hundreds of students last week at UNLV.
Chancellor Dan Klaich said imposing a new student fee is one option, but he questioned whether it would provide enough to make much of a dent in the backlog. Another option would be to delay new construction on campuses and use that money for maintenance.
“But that is a daunting issue,” he said.
Colleges and universities could try to raise money from private donors, but that could prove difficult, Redding said.
“Everyone gets a lot more excited about a new building,” he said. “There’s nothing sexy about raising funds for a new HVAC system. No one wants to put their name on a new roof.”
A task force has been proposed to explore funding options and the topic is expected to be discussed again when the regents meet in December.
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