UHV won't get expansion money from state this year

Carolina Astrain By Carolina Astrain

Aug. 17, 2013 at 3:17 a.m.
Updated Aug. 18, 2013 at 3:18 a.m.

When the third special session of the Legislature ended, the state's universities were left wondering where they would get money to expand their campuses.

The Legislature did not consider the state's proposed tuition revenue bonds, which would have provided money to universities such as the University of Houston-Victoria that need expansion funds.

The University of Houston-Victoria asked for $88.15 million to build new buildings and purchase land to expand its campus.

The missing funds put a crimp in the University of Houston-Victoria's master plan, which projects the addition of a second new academic building by 2020.

"The impact of not passing the bill falls hardest on smaller and new schools, such as the University of Houston-Victoria, that do not already have large investments in infrastructure," UHV President Phil Castille wrote in an email. "With these universities, there is a need to expand by as much as a third or more of their entire campus facilities to meet demand."

The university will break ground this fall on its first new academic building, the Academic and Economic Development Building.

The $11.5 million needed for that building was allocated through state bonds, a federal Small Business Administration grant and Higher Education Assistance Funds.

Although the $88.15 million construction bond legislation did not pass, Castille said, with help from state Rep. Geanie Morrison, the university has been able to maintain its special item appropriation of $2.1 million per year to support expansion through the 2013-15 biennium.

The last time the state approved construction bonds for higher education was in 2006.

Since that time, the state has added about 100,000 students a year to the public schools, Castille wrote.

"Higher education across the state is under pressure to expand facilities to meet rising student demand," Castille wrote. "Without a reliable means of financing campus construction, Texas public higher education is struggling to keep up."

After a recent Victoria Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Morrison said if the university hopes to stay on track with its construction according to the master plan, it should start looking for alternative means of funding.

State Sen. Glenn Hegar said the university should continue to work closely with Morrison, his office and University of Houston regent Roger Welder to get tuition revenue bonds passed in the next legislative session in 2015.

"The growth and potential at UHV is incredible," Hegar wrote in an email, "which is why I pushed very hard to ensure that UHV was included in the Senate tuition revenue bond bills."



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