New bond-financed higher education facilities must include a dedicated maintenance fund before the projects will be approved, under a new policy adopted last week by the Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Jim Purcell, director of the Department of Higher Education, said the policy should help reduce the backlog of maintenance projects at publicly funded schools.

The maintenance backlog at 22 colleges and universities is now at $1.6 billion, Purcell said at the board’s monthly meeting last week in Jonesboro.

A policy adopted in 2008 required bond requests to include maintenance plans, but the new policy stipulates the establishment of maintenance funds before the board can approve bonds for a facility.

Schools seeking state bonds for new buildings must dedicate $2.50 per square foot each year for educational buildings and $1.25 per square foot each year for auxiliary facilities.

An annual maintenance report must be submitted each year a bond-financed building is in use.

The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville levies a $6-per-credit-hour fee to cover maintenance costs and facility upgrades.

The fee, which will go to $10 per hour in 2012, is expected to generate $2.7 million in fiscal 2011.

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