The Texas Legislature closed out the third special session of the year by allocating $339,485,554 in much-needed new funding for capital construction projects across the University of Houston System and its four universities: University of Houston (UH), University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL), University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) and University of Houston-Victoria (UHV). The funds, designated as “Capital Construction Assistance Projects,” will be used for construction and renovation of facilities. UH also received an additional $50 million for institutional enhancements.
The University of Houston System received nearly $60 million to support construction of a new medical research facility to enable and promote entrepreneurship, including a close partnership between basic scientists, engineers, technologists, data experts, business disruptors and health care professionals.
University of Houston was allocated $52.4 million for construction of a second academic building at UH at Sugar Land and $40 million for construction of the Hobby School of Public Affairs building. An additional $52.4 million was allocated for construction of the IDEA Lab to house innovation and entrepreneurial-related programs to build upon the University of Houston’s reputation as one of the top entrepreneurial universities.
UHCL, UHD and UHV will receive nearly $45 million each to fund new construction, renovate existing buildings and improve infrastructure at each respective university.
“We are grateful to Gov. Abbott, Lt. Gov. Patrick, Speaker Phelan and Legislature for recognizing the need for colleges and universities across the state to keep pace with growing enrollment and aging infrastructure,” said Jason Smith, UH System vice chancellor for governmental and community relations. “This will help all of the UH System universities and instructional sites to improve their respective facilities so that we may continue to expand educational opportunities and launch new programs that meet the changing workforce demands of our regional and state economies.”
Late last week, Governor Greg Abbott added “legislation to improve higher education” to the session agenda, allowing lawmakers to consider and pass legislation. The state’s total allocation to campus construction projects statewide is more than $3.3 billion. The money is part of $16 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding.
Formerly called “tuition revenue bonds” or TRBs, the Legislature voted to change the designation of the funds to “Capital Construction Assistance Projects” in the bill passed late Monday (Oct. 18), one day before the session ended. TRB funds have caused confusion in the past, as they are not derived from student tuition. They are paid from the state’s general revenue fund. It had been six years since the state last issued bonds for higher education capital improvements. Prior to 2015 it had been nine years (2006) since similar bonds were approved.
The Legislature also appropriated $50 million in institutional enhancement funds this biennium to the University of Houston to support the University’s strategic plan, which includes targeted efforts to strengthen research and student success.