With Conditions, Regents Approve Funding for Engineering Center


After years of planning and fundraising, UT now has the money it needs to break ground on its engineering epicenter. As UT System regents polished off breakfast this morning, newly-elected chairman Paul Foster called the board to order. Within moments, they unanimously approved a new plan to fund UT-Austin’s proposed Engineering Education and Research Center (EERC), a facility meant to replace much of the Cockrell School of Engineering’s woefully outdated classrooms, labs, and student spaces. According to the regents’ proposal, it will also boost the University’s productivity in engineering research and undergraduate enrollment.

The board voted to approve $150 million in funding for the EERC, making up for $95 million the University hoped would come from the legislature this year, and $55 million in philanthropic donations that officials expect to raise by 2017. The project will cost a total of $310 million for an 8-story, 430,000-square-foot facility slated to create more open and flexible space for teaching and research. It will also provide a new home for the engineering school’s largest major, computer and electrical engineering, which boasts over 2,000 students.

By 2019, not long after the building’s likely completion date, the board will look toward a set of “investment metrics” for the Cockrell School. Pedro Reyes, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs, outlined the conditions, noting that UT-Austin would be required to complete its fundraising drive and increase undergraduate enrollment by 1,000 students. Those fundraising levels—$105 million by 2017—would not necessarily have to go toward constructing the EERC. The gifts can also be directed at other long-term goals for the Cockrell School, including scholarships. So far, UT-Austin has raised $30 million for the building, and received another $35 million in oral commitments.

The regents may also rate the project’s success on whether UT-Austin boosts research expenditures and faculty levels, according to board documents.

Saying he was confident the University could meet its fundraising goals, UT-Austin president Bill Powers spoke to the regents just before the vote.

“What this does allow us to do,” he said, “is get going. It’s a very needed building.” Powers also noted that getting started is the first step toward meeting the goals outlined by the board.

Regent Alex Cranberg said he was pleased the University was committed to increasing enrollment, and congratulated Powers and outgoing engineering Dean Gregory Fenves. The enrollment increase is expected to raise UT’s total tuition revenue, allowing the Cockrell School to hire nine new faculty members to keep up with capacity, and 180 new doctoral candidates.

The building is expected to be completed by late 2017 or early 2018.

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Above: UT-Austin President Powers speaks to Regent Alex Cranberg. Photo courtesy Matt Valentine.


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