SENATOR ZAFFIRINI, SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE EXAMINE CAPITAL FUNDING FOR TEXAS HIGHER EDUCATION INSTITUTIONS
AUSTIN -- The Senate Finance Subcommittee on Capital Funding for Higher Education on Thursday (June 29) heard testimony from budget specialists and representatives about how Texas institutions of higher education receive and utilize capital funding. Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, chair, said she and her colleagues on the subcommittee wish to continue improving the process by which state funds are delivered to and used by higher education institutions.
"During the last special session, thanks to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst's leadership, this subcommittee helped make a significant and positive investment in our state's future by developing a tuition revenue bond bill," Senator Zaffirini said. "Our work here today ensures that this investment is managed wisely, that higher education facilities in Texas are second to none and that we provide the resources necessary for our higher education institutions to flourish."
HB 153, by Rep. Geanie Morrison, R-Victoria, and Zaffirini, authorizes Texas universities to issue $1.9 billion in tuition revenue bonds (TRBs) for capital improvements.
Continuing its efforts to provide financial resources for the growing capital needs of higher education, the subcommittee reviewed construction, renovation and technology projects funded by TRBs. Members also examined how institutions receive and utilize the Permanent University Fund (PUF) and Higher Education Fund (HEF) for capital improvements.
The hearing focused on the methodology developed and implemented to rate TRB requests from institutions. The review is important in answering the subcommittee's charge to study the funding for TRBs and make recommendations to streamline, improve and objectify the process while meeting the state's goals for higher education.
Also discussed at length were issues of technology and infrastructure investments for higher education. Texas has spent millions on purchasing capabilities to ensure that universities can compete nationally and attract high caliber research opportunities, professors and students.
The subcommittee heard from panels that focused on the use of technology on campus, institutional needs in regard to technology and statewide initiatives to expand networks to promote collaboration for research and instruction.
"This subcommittee is charged with understanding the infrastructure costs and needs associated with expanding and developing the technologies needed by our universities to foster successful educational programs," Senator Zaffirini said. "Because technology plays an increasingly important role in how education materials are delivered, it is important that we understand these costs and needs so the state can respond by providing the necessary infrastructure."
Testifying before the subcommittee were Teri Flack, deputy commissioner, and Susan Brown, assistant commissioner for planning and accountability, Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board; John Wielmaker, budget analyst, and Gerry Caffey, computing services group manager, Legislative Budget Board; Steve Monti, interim executive vice president, and provost designate, the University of Texas at Austin; Brian Chapman, provost and vice president for academic affairs, and Bill Pulliam, chief information officer, West Texas A&M University; Dustin Lanier, director of strategic initiatives, Texas Department of Information Resources; and Jim Williams, executive director of the Lonestar Education and Research Network.
Presidents from all Texas higher education institutions were asked to appear in person, submit written testimony or have a representative appear on their behalf. Over 35 Texas higher education institutions were represented.
Subcommittee members include Senators Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock; Kyle Janek, R-Houston, Steve Ogden, R-Bryan; and Royce West, D-Dallas.