The nation’s economic downturn has pulled the rug out from under new building and renovation programs at many school districts, colleges and universities. The education construction market has been particularly hard-hit by the collapse of the housing market. The U.S. homebuilding boom, particularly in parts of the Southeast and the Southwest, had been the engine for skyrocketing K-through-12 school enrollment and the resulting need for new schools.
The education market also has been negatively affected by sagging tax revenue, tight credit markets and, in the case of many private institutions and some public colleges and universities, sharp declines in the value of endowments. The Las Vegas area, where residential and commercial construction markets have swung from boom to bust in dramatic fashion, provides an example of how quickly the prospects have soured for contractors seeking school-related work. Through the first two-thirds of this decade, the Clark County School District had been seeing its student population grow by a predictable 10,000 to 12,000 students a year and had been opening an average of 10 new schools annually to keep pace, says Paul Gerner, the district’s associate superintendent for facilities.