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Higher Education Deferred Maintenance: Perceptions of Campus Facilities Leaders

Robert D Fisher, Johnson & Wales University


Deferred maintenance is a major contributor to the huge infrastructure problems plaguing the nation (ASCE, 2017). The bill for deferred maintenance at Massachusetts public higher education institutions is estimated at $5.5 billion (Krantz, 2017). Deferred maintenance causes premature equipment failure, health and safety issues, increased energy costs, interruptions in student learning, and reduced student recruitment and retention (Smith, 2017). To understand problems associated with deferred maintenance at state universities, knowing the views of those responsible for maintenance programs is essential. This study explored how facilities leaders at state universities perceived deferred maintenance issues by addressing five research questions. 1. To what degree are the magnitude and consequences of deferred maintenance realized? 2. What factors contribute to deferred maintenance? 3. What factors hinder implementation of reduction efforts? 4. What are successful strategies for reducing deferred maintenance? 5. How can facilities leaders affect institutional change to reduce deferred maintenance? The study used Q methodology, which combines both quantitative and qualitative techniques (Ellingsen, Størksen, & Stephens, 2010), to analyze relative viewpoints on deferred maintenance of purposefully selected state university facilities leaders (N = 19). Data collection was accomplished through participants ranking 49 statements from agree with to disagree with by sorting and positioning the statements into a normal curve distribution grid (Brown, 1993). PQMethod Release 2.35 freeware (Schmolck & Atkinson, 2014) was employed for calculating correlations, factoring, needed rotations, and final analysis. Data analysis revealed three factor groups: Realist Leaders, Optimistic Leaders, and Front Line Leaders. Each group had some unique viewpoints while sharing consensus on several viewpoints. Overall, the results showed little realization of the magnitude and the consequences of deferred maintenance issues; sometimes this was by design. Building age, construction quality, usage, and building acquisitions were major factors contributing to deferred maintenance. Lack of funds, unexpected projects, and procurement procedures were viewed as hindrances. Identified successful strategies included preventive maintenance, shared use of standardized and non-proprietary equipment, and reliance on study results. Participation of facilities leaders at senior level meetings was viewed as key to affecting change. Results of the study should assist educational leaders in understanding and reducing deferred maintenance.

Subject Area

Higher Education Administration|Educational leadership

Recommended Citation

Fisher, Robert D, "Higher Education Deferred Maintenance: Perceptions of Campus Facilities Leaders" (2018). Dissertation & Theses Collection. AAI10229879.