By Gloria Petit/@GloriPetit
Texas A&M University-San Antonio will ask the state during the 84th Texas Legislative session to approve more than $70 million in funding through 2017.
If approved, those funds will allow the university to expand enrollment and build a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) building.
There’s a lot at stake this session, say members of university administration. If funds are denied, the institution’s growth plans could go on hold.
“If the Legislature does not approve, then we will not be able to build the buildings,” said Jennifer Skiver, acting vice president for finance and administration/CFO. “Basically, we need support from the state unless we get some support from a private source for the funding.”
The university will know which requests received funding after the legislative session ends June 1.
“If the funding is approved, the funding wouldn’t process until the end of September,” said Greg Garcia, vice chancellor for governmental relations.
Although university administration can’t project whether the Legislature will approve all funds, several university officials say they are confident, including Garcia.
“Our opportunities are very good. I feel we will receive a portion of what we requested,” Garcia said. “Right now, we can only follow the process and continue to advocate for our needs as a university.”
Legislative priorities for the university include $70 million for a STEM building; $16.5 million for infrastructure for campus development; $9 million for a student retention and success program; and $11 million for downward expansion funding (see sidebar).
In preparation for this legislative session, Garcia helped craft a Legislative Appropriations Request (LAR).
The appropriations listed in the document tell the story of the university in numbers, listing the expenses for the past couple of years, and what future expenses may be in the next couple of years, or biennium.
Priority 1: Stem Building
The plan for a STEM building, the university’s highest priority funding request for this legislative session, would offer students the opportunity to receive degrees that are applicable in their career fields, Skiver noted.
Though current students are not likely to see a STEM building before graduating, several students interviewed said they support new facilities that support academics and student research.
The plan sparked excitement for Biology junior Savannah Villanueva.
“It would bring the opportunity to bring in more professors and extend opportunity to do more research,” Villanueva said.
Biology senior Alex Greig said he looks forward “to more space and seeing new labs, as well as equipment.”
Garcia also said the STEM building will give the science, technology, engineering and math majors a new campus building. Students from the Brooks City-Base campus will move to the Main Campus for classes, consolidating two campus locations into one.
During the 83rd Legislative session, the STEM building was prioritized 13 out of 20 on on the list of funding for public institutions.
Garcia said it was listed as a high priority item, but there was not enough time and therefore died before approval.
Priority 2: Downward Expansion Funding
- The university’s second priority includes expanding enrollment to first-year and sophomore students, requiring $11 million, which can be spent over two years.
- Skiver said 10 new faculty members, 15 various academic support positions and more University Police Department staff could be added when enrollment expands.
Priority 3: Student Retention and Success Program
- The third priority listed for the legislative session includes a student retention and success program. If funded, the program will focus on improving graduation rates by enhancing academic advising.
Priority 4: Infrastructure for Campus Development
- The last priority is to provide funding for a water processing plant. The plan is to tap into recycled water from SAWS. The university would be able to tap into a pipe that would provide water for irrigation, Skiver added.
“At the same time, water is a big deal at the 84th Texas Legislature this year, because Texas does have water shortages,” Skiver said. “Anything we can do to help conserve is what we were trying to put forth.”
Summarizing the priorities, Garcia said the university will continue to seek approval from the Legislature and administrators.