Campus Construction High on Legislative Priority Lists

Ann McClure's picture

In 2011, to the chagrin of many university administrators, legislators declined to approve the financing of any campus construction projects. But comments from state leaders on Thursday regarding their higher education priorities may offer new hope for 2013.

At a TribLive event on Thursday morning, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he was hopeful that this session would bring generous funding for higher education, "including a package of tuition revenue bonds," the mechanism by which campus construction is typically funded.

Later that same afternoon, at a Texas Politics Speaker Series event at the University of Texas at Austin, Senate Higher Education Chairman Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, said his priorities included more money for higher education funding formulas and money for construction projects. He was joined by House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who agreed, having supported the idea in the last session given the low interest rates and construction costs.

Those conditions are one reason that UT-Austin was able to shave an estimated $13 million off the cost of a new College of Liberal Arts building, which opened this week. The university managed to build it through atypical financing that did not include legislative assistance, though Jamie Southerland, assistant dean for business affairs, said it may have been a case of the stars aligning.

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