Local university administrators are hopeful the state will help pay for new campus buildings, now that the Texas House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill to finance construction projects.
The University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University would get new buildings financed by tuition revenue bonds if the measure passes. First, though, the House and Senate must work out the financial discrepancies between their respective versions of the bill and then get the governor to sign off. Both versions of the bill would give UNT $70 million for a new College of Visual Art and Design and give TWU nearly $38 million for a new laboratory building.
“We’re very optimistic that the TRBs will pass, and we see it as an opportunity for our students to have new facilities, particularly in the areas of science and math,” said Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president of student life at TWU.
Tuition revenue bonds are bonds issued by the state to fund academic buildings on campus. A package of bonds like this hasn’t been approved since 2006.
Neal Smatresk, president of UNT, said the allocation would allow the university to expand programs that are currently restricted because of space. The university has had to turn away hundreds of students in recent years for majors like communication design and user-interface design because there is no room for them.
“We’re unable to service what is a very hot job market area, so with the granting of this, we’d be able to get our programming into full tilt and work on how we can make sure these critical programs can be served as we construct a new facility,” Smatresk said.
Some of the discrepancies in funding between the House and Senate versions of the bill involve other projects by the UNT System.
The House approved $56 million for a College of Law building in Dallas, $63 million for a student learning and success center at UNT’s Dallas campus and $80 million for a research building at UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth. However, the Senate docked the amounts allocated on all three projects: $49 million for the College of Law, $57.8 million for UNT Dallas’ project and $73.8 million for UNTHSC.
The differences between the bills are far less than last legislative session, when there was a $300 million discrepancy. A compromise was never reached in the conference committee between the two branches, and the bill died.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.