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FastStats 2018: Campus & Facilities

Wednesday, April 18, 2018  
Posted by: Christina Mimms
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By Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell, Head of School, Currey Ingram Academy, Brentwood, TN

Published: April 2018


The focus of this FastStats is on facility data. Benchmarks for campus area, building area and plant expenses are presented. 


Campus space is a frequent topic of conversation in our schools. Most often, someone makes the statement that we do not have enough space. Sometimes it is the other way around, and someone wonders whether the school is using the space they have been blessed with to its full advantage. Often such questions arise when discussing other strategic interests. For example, a school may wonder if the present space can accommodate an exciting new initiative, like a learning center or a boarding program. As a head of school, you are best fortified to answer such questions, whether they come from trustees, faculty, or the community at large, by starting with basic objective data. To make the most out of the information presented in this short article, as always, think about or gather your school data for comparison.


Campus Area


Figure 1 shows the median campus area of NAIS and SAIS schools. DASL has only five years of data for this variable, however, it is clear that SAIS campuses tend to have more acreage than NAIS campuses. There are at least three reasons for this. First, as shown in many previous FastStats articles, SAIS schools have larger enrollments. For 2017-2018, the median enrollment of NAIS schools is 377 and the median enrollment of SAIS schools is 590. Second, and explaining most of the variation in the enrollment difference, SAIS has a much larger proportion of K-12 schools than NAIS, as a whole. That is, there are proportionally fewer K-8 and 9-12 schools in SAIS. Third, it might be the case that within the SAIS geography, school campuses might be larger, all other things being equal, due to more land being available at a lower cost.



Campus Area Per Student


Figure 2 shows the median per acre area of campus per student. The reader will note that the differences in campus area all but disappear when the number of students is factored into the analysis. For example, for 2017-2018 the NAIS acre per student measure is 0.061 and for the SAIS it is 0.073. That’s just over 1/100 of an acre per student difference.   



Overall Building Space


Figure 3 shows the median overall square footage of indoor space in NAIS and SAIS schools. Again, you will note that SAIS schools have significantly more indoor space. As with campus area, the main reason for this is likely more area due to larger enrollment. Thus, Figure 4 will be helpful.  




Building Space Per Student


Like Figure 2, Figure 4 shows that when enrollment is considered, the square footage difference between NAIS and SAIS schools is diffused. In fact, over the past two years the square footage per student has been identical in NAIS and SAIS schools. For the last two years the median square footage of indoor space per student in SAIS and NAIS schools has been approximately 275. This is a great number to remember when thinking about your school. For example, if you are at 150 square feet per student, you have great information to take to your board that might impact, say, your next capital campaign. If you are at 500 square feet per student, you have solid evidence to begin a conversation about using your space efficiently. 



Overall Facility Expenses


Figure 5 shows the median total expense for operating the facility. Again, no surprise, this is a larger line item in SAIS budgets. As will be shown in Figures 6, 7 & 8, more specific and informative data can be derived as you dissect this variable.




Facility Expenses Per Student


Figure 6 shows the median per student facility expense. The reader will notice that when enrollment is taken into account, SAIS schools spend a lot less on facility maintenance and upkeep. For 2017-2018, there’s almost a $250 per student difference. One possible reason is efficiency due to the better economy of scale in SAIS schools. That is, facility expenses, especially utilities like electricity, can be efficiently spread over more students. Also, similar to most other expenses, facility expenses likely cost less in the region encompassed by SAIS schools.  



Facility Expenses Per Square Foot


Figure 7 shows the median facility operating expense per square foot. This chart really levels the playing field and has the potential to provide a solid comparison of how you are doing in terms of getting maximal efficiency out of your facility expenditures. If your expense per square foot is significantly above or below this benchmark (for 2017-2018, around $6 per square foot), ask why.  




Plant Expenses as a Percentage of Overall Expenses


Finally, Figure 8 shows the median plant expenses as a percentage of overall expenses. This too, is a great metric for heads to use as you compare your facility costs to benchmarks. Both the NAIS and SAIS median have hovered around 7.5% over the last 10 years. If your percentage is significantly above or below this benchmark, again, ask why. It might be that you have a disproportionately large (or small) facility for your enrollment. However, if your square footage per student is close to the benchmark but your plant expenses as a percentage of overall expenses is well above the benchmark, then you have efficiency issues.  





The main message from this FastStats is find and know your numbers and use this data for comparisons. Objective and benchmarked facility data comes in handy during those frequent board and staff conversations about the “right size” of your facility for your enrollment and your program. 


As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any other FastStats topic.



Dr. Jeffrey Mitchell is the head of Currey Ingram Academy in Brentwood, TN. He can be reached via email. 



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