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Editor's Note (The View From Here)

Finally!

This year, 2014, looks to be a good year for education. After five years or more of funding cuts to education, many of our governors are reporting a budget surplus — and education spending is on their lists! According to the fall 2013 Fiscal Survey of the States released in December by the National Association of State Budget Officers, “State budgets are expected to continue their trend of moderate improvement, making fiscal 2014 the fourth consecutive year of general fund spending growth. In contrast to the dramatic state budget declines during and immediately following the Great Recession, budgets have stabilized and significant fiscal distress continues to subside for most states.” Forty-three states have enacted spending increases for higher education.

Stabilization and growth — albeit slow growth — is also echoed in the outlook for college and university construction. This month’s issue includes the College Planning & Management 2014 College Construction Report. What you will see this year is that college construction completed in 2013 totaled $10.93 billion, more than $1 billion more than was spent in 2012. An increase is also seen in projected starts for 2014. Throughout the past six or seven years, many institutions made up for their shortfalls in funding by deferring capital improvements and postponing capital projects, leading to a pent-up demand. It appears this may be coming to an end, boding well for the future of college and university construction. The growth may be slower than many would like to see, but there is growth!

This trend is also echoed in the 2014 forecast on construction spending by the Associated General Contractors (AGC). Although not directed specifically at school construction, the forecast — based on a survey of 800 firms — states that construction spending is expected to rise between 8 percent to 10 percent in 2014, with the industry possibly adding between 250,000 and 350,000 jobs this year. According to Stephen Sandherr, the AGC’s CEO, contractors are more optimistic about 2014 than they have been in a long time and many firms plan to begin hiring again, while relatively few plan to start making layoffs.

I am an eternal optimist. And as boring as it may be to many of you, I enjoy analyzing the data and looking for connections and trends. Based on what I see here I feel fairly confident in saying that the worst is behind us — finally!

This article originally appeared in the February 2014 issue of College Planning & Management.

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