SHSU denied Legislative bonds for new buildings

Several departments on campus have to reevaluate growth plans because the Texas Legislature failed to pass tuition revenue bonds.

Agriculture and engineering, art, and the nursing departments were in line to get new buildings by 2015 to help manage the growth of students, according to Texas State University System records.

Tuition revenue bonds, or loans to an institution using tuition as the payback promise, were the main funding for the construction projects. The revenue bonds must be passed by the Texas Legislature in order for them to be given to the universities.

Money for the Nursing, Biology and Allied Health Building was requested in SB16, which passed the House but failed to reach a vote in the Senate.

Without this money and the new buildings, the departments are suffering, officials say.

The art department needs new buildings, according to department chair Michael Henderson. The current art buildings do not provide enough space for the art students, he said, which spreads the students into other buildings around campus. Henderson wants all of the art students to be centrally located.

“One of the issues we have (is that) the upper administration knows (the art department needs new buildings),” Henderson said. “So, they are hesitant to put money in our current buildings since they will be torn down soon,”

In addition to inefficient space, he said the outside of the buildings are deteriorating. The art complex was built in the 1980’s.

The new art complex is scheduled to be built in 2017. However, if the state denies the revenue bonds again, the university will not get the $12.6 million that they need.

The agricultural department took a hit as well.. According to the department’s chair, Stanley Kelley, Ph.D., their department has had record growth in the last 15 years.

The agricultural department’s original building was torn down in the 1980’s and they were relocated to the Thomason building. According to Kelley, the department was told that it would be a temporary relocation until a new building could be constructed.

“Our temporary relocation has (lasted) for 30 years now,” Kelley said.

According to Kelley, the delay in a new facility has prevented the department from having modernized classroom and laboratory space.

“We have no wall or floor outlets so students can charge or utilize electronic devices during class,” Kelley said. “[There are] no PODs or vending areas, and minimum gathering or social area for a department that has more than 1,100 majors.”

In the last several years the department has become more specialized than what it had been previously, creating the need for additional space.

“This specialization warrants the need for specialized lab space and equipment to not only meet curriculum needs but to allow faculty to remain competitive in their research and grant writing,” he said.

Kelley said every faculty member wants more space for their office, lab, classroom or storage.

“As an administrator we must make certain that we efficiently utilize our allocated space,” Kelley said.

The new agriculture and engineering technology building was scheduled to be built in 2014, but with the lack of $9.8 million they had requested in tuition revenue bonds, it may not happen. The total cost of the project is $20 million, where $10 million came from alumnus Fred Pirkle and the additional $200,000 will come from auxiliary funds.

The school of nursing officials said they are also in need of a new building. Currently, they are only able to let 40 students in a semester due to the lack of space.

“We have really outgrown this building,” Anne Stiles, Ph.D., chair of the school of nursing, said about the Academic Building III in a previous Houstonian article.

The new building was supposed to start being built next year, but they needed $37.5 million from tuition revenue bonds to start to build their $39.7 million building.

The tuition bonds not passing put the university in a tight spot, according to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Jaimie Hebert, Ph.D.

“Without those, we have to find another way to fund (academic buildings),” Hebert said. “Without having private money (donated) we may have to wait until the next legislative session (to build any academic buildings.)”

SHSU wasn’t the only university that didn’t receive the revenue bonds. No Texas schools did. Hebert said this isn’t a problem for bigger schools like the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M because they have extra state funds. State-passed tuition bonds are the only funding for academic buildings except for private donations.

“Bonding is critical funding,” Hebert said. ” doesn’t have enough surplus. Not even close to enough to build buildings. We have to accomplish what we can in the space we have.”

The next time tuition revenue bonds can be passed will be when the Texas Legislature meets in session again in 2015.

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