Key takeaways you will find in this article

  • University landscaping plays a crucial role in the overall aesthetic quality of a campus, impacting stakeholder satisfaction and fostering a conducive learning environment
  • Well-designed campus landscapes contribute to positive mental health outcomes, lower stress levels, and higher academic engagement among students
  • Leading universities are leveraging landscaping as a distinct competitive advantage to attract and retain students
  • Facilities management platforms allow institutions to improve campus landscaping, creating an engaging college experience, and boosting retention rates

The significance of university landscaping is often subtle. While most notice a beautiful campus, the effect landscaping has on aesthetic quality, student retention, and enrollment can go unnoticed.

Carefully crafted campus outdoor designs are crucial to student and institutional success. From fostering a conducive learning environment to influencing student enrollment and retention rates, the impact of college landscaping is consequential. And it’s become universally applicable across campuses throughout the country.

Leading universities aren’t just focusing on landscaping. They’re leveraging it as a distinct competitive advantage to attract and retain a student pool that continues to wane.

The importance of college landscaping and facility maintenance

Landscaping increases positive mental health outcomes. Students enjoy walking through a well-manicured campus, and alumni feel more connected to a beautifully kept university. Quality landscape design can increase stakeholder satisfaction, from visiting parents to everyday faculty. 

Additionally, university landscaping and building maintenance directly impact an institution’s success. It’s integral to campus life, bringing and keeping students on campus. 

A recent Student Voice survey on facilities found that about two-thirds of students factor campus facilities into their college decision at least somewhat. And 34% percent of students at four-year universities considered campus appearance a major factor in choosing their school.

Beyond directly improving green spaces, facility upkeep, and construction indirectly beautifies landscaping. Well-maintained buildings add to the aesthetic appeal of a campus. 

Universities rely on guided tours to recruit students, and campus curb appeal is one of the tactics to increase enrollment rates. Renovation and upgrades to their facilities increased freshman enrollment by 10% at the University of Maine.

Despite its importance, 66% of college buildings nationally are due for significant renovations and upgrades. And maintenance backlogs are growing steadily. In 2007, the campus facilities backlog was at $83 per GSF. In 2015, that backlog eclipsed $100.

“Colleges are always competing for students, and the grounds and feel of the campus is a huge reason why students choose a college,” says FMX Industry Practice Leader Matt Pace. “Campus beautification increases school and community pride. It’s always been critical for universities, but it’s become increasingly so in recent years.”

How university grounds impact student learning

Beyond a college’s ability to attract and retain students, landscape and grounds maintenance contribute to current students’ well-being. Research suggests a direct correlation between campus aesthetics and student well-being, with visually pleasing environments promoting mental health and overall satisfaction. According to a study, students in well-landscaped campuses reported lower stress levels and higher academic engagement.

Studies demonstrate that nature can significantly influence cognitive function, attention span, and academic performance. A well-designed landscape provides outdoor learning, relaxation, and social interaction opportunities. The University of Illinois found that students exposed to natural elements demonstrated improved concentration.

Unaddressed grounds needs have a direct impact on the ability of colleges to recruit and retain staff, students, and excel in research. Grounds that aren’t properly modernized mean staff and students may choose to leave or go to another institution.

Competitive advantages of improving your college landscaping

Campus landscaping yields tangible and intangible benefits. Some key advantages include:

Boost enrollment

Aesthetic appeal is crucial in prospective students’ decision-making, influencing enrollment numbers. A 2018 study found that campus appearance is instrumental in student decision-making, particularly during campus tours. For 62% of prospective students, campus appearance was the most influential factor when deciding where to enroll.

Student retention

A well-maintained campus creates positive student satisfaction and increases retention rates. About one in six students report that there are no, or few, nice places to sit (16 percent) or study (15 percent) outdoors around campus.

Colleges face shrinking student bodies and budgets. They must retain enrolled students, and campus maintenance strategies are a dependable way to do that.


Implementing eco-friendly landscaping practices reduces carbon footprint and fosters environmental stewardship. Sustainable practices can also attract and retain students. Forty-five percent considered ecological sustainability in their college enrollment decision. Adhering to sustainability benchmarks can also help schools advocate for funding.

Curb appeal 

Visually appealing grounds enhance the university’s reputation and attract prospective students, donors, faculty, and community members.

Student and faculty well-being

Green spaces promote physical activity, stress reduction, and well-being among students and staff.

Community engagement

Beautifully landscaped areas, inviting gathering spots, and public art installations encourage student, faculty, and staff interaction and community building. These spaces serve as hubs for collaboration and socialization. Additionally, events add a dependable revenue stream for universities.

Increased donation 

A beautiful campus creates lifelong impressions and memories. A well-manicured campus can boost donations from alums and community members.

What does good college campus landscaping look like?

Well-executed campus landscaping enhances the campus experience for students, faculty, and visitors. Here are some key characteristics:

  • Balanced hardscape and softscape: A well-designed campus landscape blends manmade walkways, plazas, and buildings, and natural elements like trees, shrubs, and flower beds. It should create visual interest while providing functionality.
  • Seasonal variation: Campus landscaping should be dynamic and change with the seasons. Leading campuses use plants that bloom at different times of the year, as well as trees that offer seasonal foliage colors.
  • Accessibility: Spaces should be accessible to all individuals, which may involve carefully planned pathways, ramps, and seating areas that meet accessibility standards.
  • Increased safety: Well-designed landscaping includes safety features that allow students to feel more secure on campus at any time of day. Proper lighting, signage, a campus map, emergency information, and call boxes are essential.
  • Environmental sustainability: Good landscaping minimizes the environmental impact of campus maintenance activities. Leading universities use native plants that require less water and maintenance, implement stormwater management techniques, and reduce chemical pesticides.
  • Engagement with nature: Well-executed landscaping connects with nature. This includes outdoor classrooms, nature trails, or garden spaces where students and faculty can relax and recharge.
  • Integration with landscape architecture: Outdoor spaces should complement and enhance campus landscape architecture.
  • Multi-purpose outdoor spaces: Well-designed landscaping should have space that can adapt over time. Designers should include multi-functional spaces and modular elements that staff can reconfigure as needs change.
  • Maintenance and management: Good campus landscaping requires effective maintenance and management practices to ensure long-term health and vitality. This includes regular upkeep, such as mowing, pruning, and fertilizing.

How well is your facility operating?

Get feedback on the health of your facility’s operations by taking this short diagnostic survey.

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Ideas for improving your university landscaping

Improving university landscaping requires enhancing aesthetics, functionality, and sustainability. Here are some ideas to elevate your campus:

Grounds maintenance best practices

A college campus is expansive and vast. Leading universities leverage the latest industry advancements to complete regular mowing, trimming, mulching, weeding, and watering.

Adding greenery

Integrate green spaces, botanical gardens, and arboretums into campus design to provide natural habitats for wildlife.

Community spaces

Designate areas for outdoor seating, study pods, and recreational activities to encourage social interaction and collaboration.

Social gathering points

Install benches, gazebos, and picnic areas to create inviting spaces for students to relax, socialize, and host events. Leading campuses design benches and tables with phone chargers and electrical plugs to encourage students to study outside their dorms.

Utilize facilities management software

Leverage facilities management software to streamline landscaping maintenance plans, schedule routine inspections, and track work orders effectively.

Using facilities management software for university landscaping maintenance

There is no shortage of reasons to prioritize campus landscape services. They’re vital for differentiating in today’s increasingly competitive higher education space. The most successful colleges embrace landscaping to cultivate vibrant, thriving campuses for generations.

Facilities management software allows your team to track recurring grounds maintenance tasks like mowing campus grounds, planting flowers, fertilizing grounds, etc.

Many utilize facilities management software to plan, track, and effectively manage the never-ending list of landscaping tasks that staff needs to complete. Robust features give maintenance personnel full visibility into the day-to-day complexities of managing campus grounds.

FMX facilities management software helps universities oversee campus operations inside and out. Whether dealing with grounds and landscaping, new construction plans, or building maintenance, FMX’s software solution can help you request, record, and track all maintenance and care.

Gather data to support buildings and landscaping, work orders, preventive maintenance, equipment and inventory, and capital planning.

Are you interested in learning more? Read more about how FMX facilities management software helps higher education institutions, or book a demo to see our product yourself.

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Written by

Matt Pace

K-12 Practice Leader at FMX

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