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Higher education facilities merit inclusion in national, state public works construction projects


Christian Basi

December 12, 2008

More than 70 construction projects across University of Missouri campuses could be started in 90 days

Columbia, Mo.--University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee today sent a letter to Missouri's Congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. and Missouri Gov.-Elect Jay Nixon urging consideration of campus facilities as part of President-Elect Barack Obama's proposed public works construction program.

"I can think of few things that exemplify a 'public benefit' better than supporting infrastructure projects at public universities like the University of Missouri," Forsee wrote in the letter. "These projects would create local jobs while also providing a better environment in which to educate, discover new knowledge through research, provide service to our citizens and stimulate a new economy with an educated workforce for the jobs of tomorrow. In so many ways, higher education is the foundation for helping move the country out of this crisis."

The university's four campuses have 73 different construction projects totaling $737 million that could be started in as little as 90 days. Projects range from replacing heating, cooling, electrical and sewer systems to roofing replacements, safety compliance and security improvements, and exterior repairs.

Forsee said including these projects in Obama's economic stimulus package would put people to work. In addition, the University of Missouri's four campuses are located in the state's largest population centers and represent the state's largest public research institutions in Missouri. Projects could be completed within two years.

"Completion of these projects represents a public good in a number of ways," Forsee said. "The university provides public services ranging from dental care to operating a major academic health care system. We conduct research in alternative fuels and energy efficiency. The university has a $344 million backlog in maintenance and repair projects, and we can use them to create jobs now."

As reported, Obama is proposing to create the largest public works construction program since the interstate highway system. He has outlined project areas such as making government buildings more energy efficient, improving information technology at hospitals, creating alternative fuels and installing fuel-efficient heating and cooling systems.