ARLINGTON, Texas — The University of Texas System Board of Regents today (August 10) endorsed an unprecedented Texas-sized investment of $2.56 billion to boost competitiveness in key scientific areas.
Regents voted unanimously to approve an additional 22 capital construction projects ($1,526,630,000) for Fiscal Year 2007, bolstering the System’s science, technology, engineering and health infrastructure. The projects are in addition to 22 others approved by the Regents since August 2005 totaling $954,395,000. These additional investments, coupled with faculty recruitment and smaller campus renovation projects for science and technology, brings the total investment by the UT System to $2.56 billion in the current and next fiscal years.
“This investment is the largest commitment to science and technology infrastructure that has been made by a higher education system in the country since the National Academies’ recent call for a comprehensive effort to bolster U.S. competitiveness in its report, RISING ABOVE THE GATHERING STORM, ” said UT System Chancellor MARK G. YUDOF. These capital projects are focused on providing the UT System academic and health institutions with state-of-the-art equipment, facilities and start-up packages designed to recruit the world’s brightest research scientists and faculty and to provide a world-class education in the sciences, technology, engineering, and health professions. Examples of new investments include $27 million for a new math, science and engineering teaching-learning facility at UT Dallas; $80.4 million for a new engineering research building at UT Arlington; and $150 million for a new 200,000 square foot South Texas Research Facility at the UT Health Science Center in San Antonio.
“Today’s investment by UT will have a profound effect on global competitiveness, underscores Texas’ reputation as one of the country’s leading research centers and furthers excellence at our institutions,” said Regents’ Chairman JAMES R. HUFFINES. “UT and the state of Texas will be able to make major advances in cutting-edge research and technology that can, in turn, be applied to real-world applications. Efforts in cancer and biomedical research, more effective techniques for teaching and learning in math and science, addressing the nursing shortage, and meeting critical needs in health research are essential to keeping Texas and the nation competitive.”
This investment is the largest single financial commitment in UT System’s nearly 125 year history. Funding for this initiative will come from a variety of sources, including $678 million designated for UT System science, technology, engineering and health-related projects of a total $1.8 billion earmarked by the state legislature in May for Tuition Revenue Bonds (TRBs). Despite the name, debt service for these bonds is not paid from tuition and fees. Debt service on TRBs is reimbursed to higher education institutions by the state and does not impact the cost of attending colleges and universities in Texas.
“These major steps forward can only happen when all of the stakeholders — including state and federal government, higher education, industry and private donors — share the same vision and stand ready to back it up with funding,” Huffines remarked. “We are proud and grateful to enjoy such extraordinary support from all of our partners in this important initiative.”
The UT System initiative follows several national studies and calls for action to address the country’s decline in producing scientists and engineers and erosion of U.S. global competitiveness.
“In January of this year, President Bush announced plans to address at the federal level a growing concern about the effects of rapid global competition and erosion of U.S. advantages in the marketplace and in science and technology,” said Chancellor Yudof. “The plan to address these issues — the AMERICAN COMPETITIVENESS INITIATIVE — calls for unprecedented investments in science, technology, math and health education to ensure the competitive future of our country. Texas is doing its part to address these issues of competitiveness, the need for a strong educated workforce, and the need to advance promising research. The Governor’s establishment of innovative economic resources such as the TEXAS ENTERPRISE FUND and EMERGING TECHNOLOGY FUND initiatives have been instrumental in our ability to heed this call to action. Today, with approval of these investments, The UT System is helping ensure that the state of Texas will become the location of choice for the nation’s – and the world’s – leading scientists, doctors, mathematicians and technologists. In doing so, UT will help keep this country competitive and boost the economy of the state and nation,” Yudof said.
The UT System competitiveness initiative – linked to a new 10-year strategic plan for the System – has been in development over the last year. “By its action today, the Board of Regents is demonstrating its commitment to aligning resources with the System’s goals for the future laid out in this plan,” said Chairman Huffines.
The full $2.56 billion approved over two fiscal years — including projects approved today by the UT System regents — is designated for 44 science, technology, engineering and health-related capital projects ($2.48 billion). The total $2.56 billion investment also includes $76.8 million for science, technology, engineering and health faculty recruitment and smaller equipment, repair and renovation projects in the current and next fiscal years.
“This is an unprecedented plan to substantially increase the UT System’s commitment to build the most competitive science and engineering, medicine and mathematics infrastructure – both human and capital – in the country,” Chancellor Yudof noted. “It is critically important to Texas and to the nation to turn out more engineers, more nurses, to do the cutting-edge research, to develop new products and medical treatments, to establish new businesses and new industries in our state. This initiative will add more than 5 million gross square feet of space including more than 3 million square feet – or a 30 percent increase – in research space,” he said.
“The initiative, part of the UT System’s effort to provide a 10-year strategic planning roadmap, aligns resources and priorities for the UT System and represents a comprehensive, sustainable response to the National Academies’ report, the President’s American Competitiveness Initiative and the challenge from Governor Perry in focusing on break-through emerging technologies.,” Yudof concluded.
According to Dell Inc. chairman of the board Michael Dell, “It is imperative that Texas higher education stay on the leading edge of new technologies in shaping the best and brightest young minds into the skilled workforce of the future. The UT System and the state of Texas are stepping up to ensure that this state can successfully compete across the nation — and ultimately, throughout the world — in these industries that have such a substantial impact on the way we work, learn and live.” Dell’s family foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, recently made a $50 million commitment toward the UT initiative by investing in a new pediatric research institute, computer science building, and a center for the advancement of children’s wellness.
Funding for the total $2.56 billion initiative includes state and federal appropriations, tuition revenue bonds, institution funds, Permanent University Fund allocations, and private funds or gifts from business, industry, foundations and individuals. Funds for recently approved tuition revenue bonds must still be appropriated by the Legislature in early 2007.
“We are extremely grateful for the support from the Texas Legislature and from many private and foundation sources,” Yudof said. “Without their generosity and commitment to keeping Texas competitive, this unprecedented investment in science, technology, engineering and health infrastructure would not have been possible.”
The UT System is one of the nation’s largest higher education systems with 15 campuses, including nine academic and six health institutions, and an annual operating budget of $10 billion (FY 2007). Student enrollment exceeded 185,000 in the 2005 academic year. The UT System confers one-third of the state’s undergraduate degrees and educates three-fourths of Texas health care professionals.