As I review the various construction industry forecasts for 2011 in preparation of the opening session at our upcoming Business & Leadership Conference, I can’t get past the data on the education marketplace. Imagine looking at two charts: one shows the number of students enrolled from kindergarten all the way through college; the other shows spending on new buildings. They show an exact opposite trend.
The number of students has steadily increased about 2-3% each year over the last decade. If you break that down further, the real increase is in higher education. The number of students enrolling in higher education is rapidly increasing. The overall increase in K-12 has been fairly modest in most regions and very fast in others.
The amount of new construction for buildings over the same time period has been in a steady decline to the point where spending last year was roughly 50% of what it was in 2001. There seems to be a significant amount of spending to refurbish older buildings to keep them open, but this does not increase classroom capacity to accommodate the additional students.
Looking at these reports, it seems to me that overcrowding will put our public education at great risk or tax increases will be required to build new schools or both. It makes you wonder how much longer this decade-long trend can continue before something gives. I hate the idea of increased property taxes, yet I do see where building modern schools to accommodate more students would improve the education experience … and give our members a much-needed boost in education business.
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