While some construction projects are clearly state, federal or private, the waters are muddy in other instances. For example, when construction work is done on university or college properties. Are these projects private or state?

The article is timely, as the Wall Street Journal recently ran an article stating the university construction is picking up in the United States, and that there’s a forecast that the industry will get a “boon” with the uptick in work.

It Matters to Your Mechanics Lien Rights Whether a Project Is State or Private

The question of whether a project is a state or private project is a very important question when it comes to lien rights. On private projects, you’ll likely have mechanics lien rights, and you’ll need to comply with a set of deadlines and notice requirements unique from those requirements on state and federal projects. On state projects, in addition to having different regulations, you’ll also be entitled to bond claim rights as opposed to a lien right.

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When dealing with lien compliance on a new project, therefore, the first order of business is determining whether the project is private or public. For some guidance on this in general see types of construction projects – what are they and why you should care.

Universities and Colleges Can Be Either a State or Private Construction Project

Universities and colleges present a very unique challenge in determining project type. While colleges and universities almost always have a mixture of funding (private and public), there isn’t a hard and fast rule rendering them all public or private. In fact, colleges and universities can be either a private or public organization, and therefore, the construction project can be either private or public.

Here are some tips on figuring this out.

Is It A Religious College or University?

If the college or university commissioning the construction project is a religiously affiliated school, that is one of the biggest giveaways that the project is a private one. This is because the federal and state government must constitutionally separate themselves (and their money) from religion. All religiously affiliated colleges and universities are private schools.

Is The College Regulated By State Statutes?

If a college is a state school they are almost always formed and regulated by state statutes passed by state legislatures. Using the state of Washington as an example, whenever we search for schools in Washington I instruct our staff to search for the name of the school and the initials “RCW” (Revised Code of Washington). If the school is a state school, there is some RCW provision referring to it. Always. Look at the state’s statutes and see if the school in question is mentioned. If it is, the school is very likely a state school.

Check out The About Section

Check out the About section on the school’s website. This oftentimes identifies the board of directors, funding sources and more. If you see that the board is a publicly elected official, that’s a giveaway that the school is a state school. If funding comes from property taxes or other state and county taxes, that’s a giveaway that it’s a state school. If the school publishes its financial information, that means it’s most likely state.