The Society for College and University Planning: Top priorities in higher ed capital program management

July 13, 2021 | 5 minute read
Janet Poses
Product Marketing Director
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In conversation with Mike Moss, certified association executive, president, Society for College and University Planning.

Founded in 1965, the Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) brings the integrated planning discipline—including courses, content, community, training, and tools—to approximately 650 colleges and universities. The organization’s mantra focuses on how academics, student life, staff, faculty, and the community unite to support the university’s overall strategic plan.

Mike Moss, president of SCUP, explains the organization’s ongoing communal and integrated approach to capital planning. It is the exact opposite of a one-off development of a plan that is never referenced or used, becoming “a document on the shelf,” says Moss.

The organization’s integrated plan must be an agile document to be of value—always changing in response to the needs of the university and the community. Moss talks about the criticality of “fluidity” in any campus masterplan to ensure institutions can effectively achieve their mission of serving students.

The intersection between the physical and academic plan epitomizes the integrated planning discipline. Moss instills a systems planning background and mindset to college and university planning, including the importance of standardized processes, systems, and metrics.

“A key element of planning is decision making—and a key to good decision making is data,” says Moss. Tradeoffs and prioritization in a capital plan require determining what is important and why—and having a consistent approach across a campus or campuses.

“A key element of planning is decision-making—and a key to good decision-making is data."

-Mike Moss, Certified Association Executive, President, Society for College and University Planning

With campus master planning as their center stone, the Society for College and University Planning works with their member institutions to develop standards and best practices that can be tailored to each institution and that institution’s culture. The foundation of SCUP promotes students’ involvement in creating “a planning culture” to help institutions successfully achieve their overall mission.

Capital expenditures are a huge part of an institution’s budget. With cost constraints and new expectations, college and university capital plans have never been more important to institutions’ long-term success.

3 changes impacting college and university planning

  1. Remote learning – changing campus needs

Remote learning, while part of the conversation for many years, has recently received a jump start. Institutions widely believe there will be a marked increase in remote learning from now on.

In a recent SCUP survey, 70% of respondents said they will either maintain or increase remote learning. This will impact the amount of needed space on campuses as well as technology needs.

Will all lecture halls be set up to broadcast and record lectures? What mix of in person to remote learning will universities strive for?

How might this change in the future and how can universities plan for changes, even though they don’t yet know what they will be?

  1. Student options increase need for efficiency

The increase in remote learning and the rapid change in student and community demands, highlight the importance of “fluidity” to a university’s capital plan. Many institutions are now focusing on multi modal buildings.

How can a single building serve multiple purposes? Can future science labs be built and set up in ways to serve multiple disciplines?

How can university buildings and classrooms incorporate logistics to meet communities’ needs as many countries are looking to reskill workers from waning to waxing industries?

“Multimodal buildings help institutions cultivate not only university learning, but also lifelong learning among students and communities,” says Moss.

  1. Sustainability: practicing what you teach

Sustainability is increasingly recognized as a critical value for businesses and other institutions, including higher education. It has become a growing concern, both for the universities and for their brand image.

“An institution’s brand is impacted by physical space and what the school is doing around sustainability,” says Moss.

Prospective students are increasingly concerned with sustainability. Gen Z’s sustainability focus impact’s their choice of which universities to attend. Sustainability Exchange reports that “the values of an institution were a significant driver in student choice between universities.”

Sustainability is also included in college reviews and is associated with other positive and forward-looking attributes. “Green college campuses are usually on the forefront of progressive ideas and programs, and that’s certainly the case when it comes to protecting the environment.”

With so many higher education institutions teaching sustainability, who better than universities to apply their own brain trust to their capital program? 

Balancing costs and benefits

All institutions make tradeoffs with their capital budgets. For example, many institutions who continued face-to-face learning during COVID-19 installed new equipment to attain higher air quality in their buildings.

These institutions are now questioning if this new equipment is the new standard. What are the ongoing costs? How should organizations manage maintenance and maximize equipment life?

Space management

Space is an asset, just like funding is, and universities must manage their space to provide the optimal return for their institution. Some institutions have consolidated their campuses due to financial stress, causing an even deeper look at space optimization.

To handle this effectively, the universities’ campuses, or single campus, must have standardized processes, criteria and a view across their buildings and campuses to assess and prioritize space usage.

“University space is a finite and critical resource that supports the university’s objectives, including the teaching, research, student life, and operations,” states the University of California Berkeley Division of Academic Planning.

Project considerations: scope, financing, timing

A standardized and comprehensive approach to judging project proposals, and ensuring the scope meets today’s needs and tomorrow’s potential requirements, is essential to ensuring a project is aligned to an institution’s overall strategic goals.

Is the project being built to support needed technology? For example, how fast will the university see a return on investment on installing sensors in buildings for monitoring?

What are the benefits to safety, maintenance, and operations’ costs? Does the project have an inclusive scope based on how the building may be used in the future?

Many institutions consider American Disability Act (ADA) ramps and elevators, but will buildings support the latest technology to support hearing and sight impairments?

Financing options also must be assessed: How should financing be done? Should institutions implement a public-private partnership?

How does the project plan align with funding cycles or grants? How can the complexity of funding sources best be managed?

Agile project management has never been more important. Learn about Oracle’s Primavera Unifier Essentials, a quick start scalable solution for capital program  management.

Register for the webcast: Strategic capital program management: Balance today's needs and tomorrow's opportunities. August 4, 2:00 p.m. ET/11:00 a.m. PT.

Oracle Construction and Engineering, the global leader in construction management software and project portfolio management solutions, helps you connect your teams, processes, and data across the project and asset lifecycle. Drive efficiency and control in project delivery with proven solutions for project controls, construction scheduling, portfolio management, BIM/CDE, construction payment management, and more.

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