Educational construction spending grew at a rate faster than any other nonresidential sector during 2000. The combination of favorable demographic trends, an aging educational infrastructure and the policy priorities of the new president and Congress should ensure strong gains throughout at least the next half decade.
Spending to build new-or to renovate existing-educational facilities was valued at an estimated $58.36 billion during this past year. This was 17.9 percent greater than the amount of construction money spent in the educational sector during 1999 before adjustment for inflation, and a gain more than twice as strong as the 7.8 percent increase recorded between 1998 and 1999.
Private schools catch up
Publicly funded school construction made up almost 80 percent of the educational sector spending total during 2000. After increasing by 9.6 percent between 1998 and 1999, public school construction spending surged 17.1 percent higher during this past year.
Privately funded school construction spending during 1999 had grown a scant 0.9 percent above its 1998 level, but the 1999-2000 gain came in at an exceptional 21.3 percent.
Enrollments spark growth
A 1998 report from the National Center for Educational Statistics estimated that at least 2,500 new public schools will be needed by 2005 to accommodate rising enrollments and to relieve current overcrowding. Approximately 53 million children were enrolled in elementary and secondary schools last year, and this number is projected to climb to 54.3 million by 2008. Growth isn't limited to kindergarten through 12th grade; students are streaming into colleges and universities as well. Enrollment in institutions of higher education is expected to rise from about 14.8 million this year to 16.5 million in 2008.
A half decade of growth to come
As states and local communities across the country struggle to meet the challenges of rising student enrollments and initiatives directed toward reducing average class sizes, they will need to build new schools and extensively renovate existing facilities to make up for years of deferred maintenance. Consequently, forecasted annual growth in educational sector construction spending is expected to average about 10 percent a year between now and 2005-a consistent pace of expansion that is unlikely to be matched by any other sector of the nation's construction industry.