The Board of Trustees’ Committee on Administration and Finance voted Sept. 12 to approve a plan that proposes spending $3.1 billion on new construction, renovations and other upgrades across the five-campus system over the next five years.
“There is a direct correlation between the quality of our facilities and the quality of the student experience and achievement,” said President Robert L. Caret. “Our ability to attract and retain top-notch faculty, conduct world-class research, and improve the economic environment of the Commonwealth through public/private collaborations and innovations rests with our ability to have the infrastructure in place that allows all of these efforts to take place.”
The $3.1 billion plan, which would span fiscal ears 2013-17, builds on the more than $2.4 billion invested in capital improvements on UMass campuses over the previous decade. Since that time applications and enrollment have reached record levels. Enrollment system-wide has surged from 57,721 students in 2002 to 70,874 in fall 2012, and with more students and more programs come increased demand for classroom space and residence halls.
“We have seen new science centers, residence halls, academic buildings and student recreation centers open their doors over the past decade,” Caret said. “For many years, too little new construction and maintenance occurred on our campuses. But in recent years, we have begun to reverse that trend and that’s the path we need to continue on.”
The capital plan now goes to the full Board of Trustees for approval at its Sept. 19 meeting in Worcester.
Victor Woolridge, chairman of the Administration and Finance Committee, said the plan addresses “critical infrastructure needs to preserve and advance the University’s missions.” He added, “It’s the basic foundation you need to attract and retain high quality students and faculty.”
The plan proposes spending $1.8 billion on new construction, $1 billion on deferred maintenance, with the rest earmarked for information technology upgrades, new equipment and other improvements.
The five-year plan covers 249 projects, including 10 projects totaling $43.3 million new to this year’s capital plan. The new projects range from deferred maintenance on the Whitmore Administration Building on the Amherst campus to a steam chiller replacement at the Medical School in Worcester.
Most of the capital plan targets projects already underway on the campuses, including the new life science laboratories and Commonwealth Honors College complex in Amherst.
Of the $3.1 billion capital plan, $1.1 billion is slated for the Amherst campus; $897 million for Boston; $286 million for Dartmouth; $513.2 million for Lowell and $257.7 million for the Worcester campus.
The plan proposes funding from a variety of sources, including University funds, UMass Building Authority borrowing, state and federal support and private funding. It assumes that 66 percent of the funding would come from University funds and from borrowing, 6 percent from fundraising and grant funding, and about 28 percent from the state, which is significantly higher than the 15 percent in state support the Commonwealth has averaged for capital improvements in the previous decade.
“The University of Massachusetts is the engine that drives economic research and development in the Commonwealth - creating the jobs, producing the talent, finding the discoveries and innovations that keeps the state competitive in the global world,” said Henry M. Thomas, III, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “Our infrastructure is one of the underpinnings of that work and we must work actively to continue to make improvements.”
Image: Architectural rendering of Life Sciences Laboratories (courtesy of Facilities Planning)