UT Schools Start the Push for State Construction Funds

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The 84th session of the Texas Legislature doesn’t kick off for another six months, but calls for construction funding at state universities have already begun.

Tuition revenue bonds, or TRBs, are the primary state funding mechanism for campus construction. (The name can be a bit misleading, since these funds don’t directly involve tuition.) Today the UT System announced that eight of the systems’ nine academic campuses are seeking a total of $1.397 billion in construction funding. The system also includes six health institutions, which are seeking a total of $591 million.

Two projects for UT-Austin are on the list: renovations for Robert A. Welch Hall and the McCombs School of Business. Welch, which has housed UT’s chemistry department since 1931, is getting higher priority than the newer McCombs building. If funded, both renovations will add classroom space, replace outdated facilities, and add new technology to classrooms. UT-Austin is asking for $100 million in TRBs for Welch and $105 million for McCombs. State funding alone won’t cover all the costs, of course; private gifts and institutional funds will also be necessary.

Whether any of these requests will actually get funded is an open question. The lege hasn’t funded any TRBs since 2006, and during the 83rd session last year, the clock ran out on the bonds during the regular session. In the three special sessions that followed, Gov. Perry didn’t put them on the agenda. Still, tuition revenue bonds have enjoyed wide support from higher education advocates and legislators, among them Senate higher education chair Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo), state Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin), and state Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), BS ’67, MA ’70, PhD ’78, Life Member, Distinguished Alumna.

In a statement released Thursday, the System pointed out that enrollment across the 15 campuses has grown by 27,000 since the last TRBs in 2006—and campus facilities haven’t grown accordingly. 

See the full list of UT System projects seeking state funding here.


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