Texas governor approves $3.3B for higher ed construction

Texas governor approves $3.3B for higher ed construction

Phil Puccio

Dive Brief:

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a $3.3 billion bond package into law on Oct. 25 for construction and renovation at higher education institutions, providing the first substantive bond package since 2015, according to the Dallas Morning News.
  • Some of the biggest recipients of the funding will receive tens of millions of dollars, with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University systems each receiving over 20% of the funding, according to the Morning News.
  • Colleges and universities across the country have been pinched for cash because of the pandemic, and Texas institutions are no exception. The American Rescue Plan provided $39.6 billion to higher education institutions to help mitigate monetary issues that the schools face, such as rising costs of health and safety equipment.

Dive Insight:

The new law is a pared-down version of legislation that appeared before the Texas House Appropriations Committee earlier this month, according to Texas Tribune reporting. It aims to spread the wealth as universities are hurting from pandemic costs, albeit in a more targeted way, as some recipients, such as the University of Texas system, are receiving massive chunks of the pie.

According to an analysis of the legislation, some of the biggest projects that will stem from the funding include: 

  • The University of North Texas at Dallas, $163 million for construction of a science building.
  • The University of Texas at Arlington, $134 million for renovation of the Life Science Building.
  • The University of Houston System, $128 million for construction of a medical research facility.
  • The University of Texas at El Paso, $100 million for construction of an advanced teaching and learning complex.
  • The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, $84 million for campus space optimization and realignment.
  • Texas A&M International University, $80 million for construction of health science education and research centers.
  • The University of Texas at Tyler, $76 million for construction of a sciences building.

The law also creates new guidelines for how the money is spent. With its passage and signing, it establishes a governing body known as the Capital Project Oversight Advisory Commission. Under the law, the commission, “shall develop model guidelines to be considered by public institutions of higher education and university systems for procurement and construction related to capital projects.” The commission’s guidelines will be developed by March 31, 2022.

A similar bill was introduced in February, but was killed before any action could be taken on it. The current bill marks only the second time in 16 years that the state of Texas will have passed any form of bond revenue package like this.

State Rep. DeWayne Burns, who filed the bill in the Texas House, told the Tribune that he was adamant about giving every school an equal chance at funds.

“We tried to be fair and give every location a bite of the apple and an opportunity to go forward with their project,” Burns told the Tribune.

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