Community Colleges Australia (CCA) has highlighted the importance of maintaining, preserving and protecting the physical facilities of adult and community education (ACE) providers. A submission to the Deputy Premier of NSW has requested a base amount of $100,000 annually to assist NSW ACE providers in delivering high value education and training to priority communities and residents.
“The NSW ACE providers – often known as community colleges – over-perform in their delivery of vocational education and training to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged resident,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.
“CCA recently surveyed our NSW members, and determined that they spend an average of $277,000 each year on physical premises and assets maintenance. The $100,000 annual allocation would ensure that essential maintenance and asset protection occurs at a time when the population of the state continues rapid growth,” said Dr Perlgut.
The CCA submission shows how such funding would be consistent with the NSW 2021 Plan and the 2018-2038 State Infrastructure Strategy. The CCA submission also notes that the NSW Government has directly funded TAFE NSW for “Operational Base Funding” (OBF), defined as, “the costs incurred as a result of the competitive disadvantages arising from public ownership.”
The CCA survey asked members to determine how much they were spending on maintenance, repairs, rent, leasing, utilities, furnishings, plant upgrades and other related costs such as security and cleaning. Of the 27 organisations that responded to the survey, delivering to more than 40,000 students with 100,000 enrolments (not all accredited VET):
- 11 owned a total of 17 buildings or sites, with some sites consisting of multiple buildings;
- 21 rented a total of 59 buildings or sites; and
- 4 both owned and rented premises.
The average annual expenditure on repairs, maintenance, rent and related costs was $277,000, with all but one organisation reporting an expenditure greater than $100,000/year. Of the $277,000 figure, the largest expenditure was rent and other leasing costs, averaging at $167,000. Issues identified included the challenges of managing heritage buildings – one built in 1820, development pressures on valuable locations and the importance of place accessibility.
“It is heartbreaking to read the comments from this survey. And we have only examined the ‘tip of the iceberg’ facing Australian not-for-profit community education providers. We know that providers in other states also face the same challenges,” said Dr Perlgut.
“The survey reinforces the findings of CCA’s 2017 research into the outcomes the Australian Government’s $100 million “Investing in Community Education and Training” (ICET) program, which showed that three-quarters of funded recipients offered new courses, almost all increased their student numbers, and most improved accessibility for staff and students living with disabilities. We estimate that more than 100,000 additional Australians undertook training in community education institutions over the past seven years as a direct result of ICET funding,” said Dr Perlgut.
Examples of survey responses include:
- “Our buildings were built in 1948 and are timber that have asbestos in some areas and termites discovered in one at present. The buildings required constant and ongoing maintenance.”
- “We currently rent premises. The cost of commercial leasing, especially when locality demands a high rental income, and in addition property outgoings of up to $4500pa, impacts long term sustainability.”
- “The College owns one campus outright and the rent on the lease on the second campus is currently very reasonable. Unfortunately, we have only 19 months left on the lease … this is likely to increase our rent … at least $60,000 per year, or we will buy another property but a mortgage will be required.”
- “Our buildings are 20 years old – some internal rooms were renovated around 7 years ago with the assistance of Commonwealth’s infrastructure funding provided. Our upgraded training rooms have been integral to us being able to deliver appropriate training and have attracted the majority of our students over the past few years. We funded upgrading of one of our training rooms last year which contributed to a financial loss for the year. The remainder of our building interiors are in desperate need of renovating, as are the exteriors of all of our buildings. We do not generate surplus funds to complete the work required and any funding we are able to obtain would be extremely beneficial for the ongoing provision of high quality training.”
- “In the last couple of years, we have not been spending enough money on maintenance costs, as we were trying to reign in costs to match declining income. Our equipment and software is old. We would have loved to spent more upgrading but just couldn’t afford it. Our IT equipment hasn’t been significantly upgraded for 4 years which means another $50k per year could easily be added.”
- “One of our biggest costs is rent and we urgently need to address this issue to ensure our future viability if we are to continue to service these areas with an actual college with staffing. We also provide outreach to the smaller villages from these campuses to run courses in local halls, workplaces and in a paddock if necessary.”
- “Even though we have recently downsized, we still need a full time property manager and a gardener plus other staff inputs, as well as a ute, fuel, tools and materials etc. In other words, reduction in our size means that we have less income to cover overheads that do not reduce proportionately.”
- “Given our spread of campus locations across a large area, the complexity of so many delivery locations means that we also have a lot of staff-related costs to support sites, such as night assistants to open and close buildings and a property manager and gardener to move things around, do odd jobs.”
The CCA survey was undertaken in May 2018. View the full copy of the CCA submission here (PDF).