Texas Universities Call for Campus Construction Funding Bill to Train More Medical Students After Pandemic
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Executives at Texas public universities are believing their fingers that the Legislature will pass a bill this year that would open up billions of dollars in funding for the construction of new and existing buildings on campus.
Many of the projects named in the bill would add health care education and research infrastructure as the state continues to face a shortage of doctors and nurses amid the COVID pandemic. 19. Officials say the pandemic has exacerbated the needs of these construction projects that will expand public health education.
House Bill 1530, which would authorize the state to issue $ 4.3 billion in bonds to fund infrastructure projects, is coming to the Senate for approval after Texas House passed it last week.
If passed by the Texas Senate and enacted into law, it would collectively send over $ 150 million towards the construction of new public health education buildings at Texas A&M University in San Antonio and the Center of Health Sciences at the University of Texas at Houston, $ 88 million for a health professions building at Texas State University in Round Rock and $ 163 million for a dental school building in Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, among other projects.
“[Health care workers are] a growing need as our baby boomers age, ”said Rep. Jim Murphy, R-Houston, who sponsored the bill and chairs the House higher education committee. “This is a tremendous career opportunity as the field grows. And we are not producing enough people that we need in this part of the economy. “
Some of the included bills were carried over from a bill that failed in the last legislative session that was blocked in a Senate committee. The state has not adopted a tuition fee income bond package financing the construction of higher education since 2015.
For years, higher education leaders have grown accustomed to the Legislature passing construction bills for their projects every two sessions. But the time between passing bills has grown longer over the past two decades. Prior to 2015, the state had not passed a law on tax obligations for tuition fees since 2006.
Upstairs in the House last week, Murphy said the Texas State University system was 1.4 million square feet smaller than its size, the Texas A&M system was 2 , 3 million square feet and that the UT system was 3 million square feet less than needed to meet the needs of its growing student population.
“The needs are very great today, let alone two years from now,” said Murphy.
It would also include $ 270 million for the construction of three buildings at the planned Texas Medical Center research campus in Houston. The Texas A&M Health Science Center, the UT Health Science Center in Houston and the MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas would each receive $ 90 million to construct their own building on the 37-acre campus.
In a statement, Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said the project was vital, calling it “a medical center of the next generation.”
He said the bonds also help the system cope with rapid student enrollment, which increased by nearly 30,000 system-wide students between 2011 and 2019.
The bill also includes up to $ 108 million to Texas Woman’s University in Denton for its own health sciences center. A spokesperson for the TWU university said the new center would allow the university to increase enrollment in nursing, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
“The new facility would strengthen the university’s focus on rural health and telehealth initiatives, areas that also have significant needs in Texas,” said Matthew Flores, of TWU.
Not all the money is for new construction. Representative Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, said the funding included for Texas Southern University, a historically black university, is an “emergency item” intended to repair old buildings.
“I wish it was for future projects or for the vision, the greatness of what Texas Southern can be,” Johnson told the Texas Tribune. “But it’s just a matter of maintaining buildings or just building buildings that are just hung up by hope and prayer.”
The bill includes $ 23 million to renovate the Samuel M. Nabrit Science Center in Texas Southern, which was badly damaged in the February freeze due to bursting water pipes, and $ 59 million to the construction of a new Lanier East residence, built in the 1950s.
While many universities received less money than they were asking for construction projects, House lawmakers approved an amendment that would fully fund Prairie View A&M University’s $ 60 million request, a another HBCU, for a new university student support and teaching services building.
Johnson, mover of the amendment, said it was essential to fully fund the project at a university that serves some of Texas’ most underserved communities, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college and have need additional support.
Disclosure: MD Anderson Cancer Center, Texas Southern University – Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs, Texas Tech University, and Texas State University System financially support The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization that is funded in partly through donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial support plays no role in the journalism of the Tribune. Find a full list here