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Friday, December 6, 2019

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Expanded education fund could mean big money for UH


UH is among 33 Texas universities that could collectively receive $131 million in additional funding after the Senate Committee on Higher Education proposed a 50 percent expansion of the Higher Education Fund.

The HEF was created by the Texas Legislature in 1986 and is meant solely for construction, renovation and capital equipment for academic support. UH has received an annual distribution of about $35 million and has used the money primarily for capital renewal and deferred maintenance, according to Vice President of Administration and Finance Carl Carlucci.

“Health and safety issues have been given first priority and this would probably be where new funds are invested, such as installing automated sprinkler systems in older buildings,” Carlucci said.

A committee sets priorities for the distribution of funds, which can be also be used to renovate faculty laboratories and to purchase computer equipment and library materials.

“The University of Houston has significant needs for capitol renewal and maintenance,” said Vice President of Governmental and Community Relations Jason Smith. “A 50 percent increase in HEF funds would be very helpful in addressing those needs.”

The HEF was created to “level the playing field” between schools like the University of Texas and Texas A&M University, which exclusively benefit from the multi-billion dollar Permanent University Fund, and other Texas universities.

In 2014, UT-Austin received $215.2 million from the PUF, with Texas A&M receiving $98.6 million, according to the Houston Chronicle. UH received $35.9 million from the HEF, which is set for re-authorization every 10 years. Without re-authorization this session, UH will no longer receive HEF monies, making the need for an expanded budget even more critical.

“The increase that is being proposed indicates that the lawmakers working toward passage of this legislation recognize the significant need for eligible universities,” Smith said. “The University of Houston has achieved Tier One Research University status and should be appropriated equal funding as the other state research universities. It is in the best interest of the state to give more students opportunities for a top education rather than limiting those opportunities to only a few universities.”

The expanded HEF would grant the UH System $76.3 million, with $52.5 million set aside for the main campus.

“We are always appreciative of support we receive from the Legislature, particularly from our Houston-area legislative delegation,” UH President and Chancellor Renu Khator said. “We welcome creative ideas to help us serve the people of the state of Texas in the best way possible.”

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