Construction at UT

Between 1973 and 2003, UT lost 15 general purpose classrooms, according to page 18 of the Report of the Task Force on Enrollment Strategy. After 30 years of rapidly increasing tuition and student fees, much of which has gone to pay for the intense building on campus, the number of general purpose classrooms have actually declined. How is this possible?

Most new buildings house laboratories, office space or "special purpose" rooms that have little bearing on undergraduate education and the mission of the University. At the same time, renovations of old buildings often reduce general purpose classroom space by converting existing classrooms to office space or "special purpose"rooms. Much of UT-Austin's construction in recent years has been at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus in North Austin, a money pit that few undergraduates ever have the privilege of using. The majority of the funding for building projects mostly comes from tuition revenue or the Permanent University Fund. (see Figure A). As a result, these projects - with dubious merit to undergraduates - have been financed on the backs of students for at least the past 30 years.

Figure A: Total FY2000 Federal Science and Engineering (S&E) obligations at the University of Texas-Austin, 
by agency and category of support



Agency

R&D

R&D Plant

Facilities for Instruction

Fellowships

General support for S&E

All other S&E

Total
(dollars in thousands)

$134,977

257

0

3,062

395

21,158

Selected agencies

Department of Defense

56,480

0

0

0

0

16,768

National Science Foundation

26,286

257

0

747

0

2,673

Department of Energy

11,653

0

0

0

0

0

NASA

9,706

0

0

639

0

452

SOURCE:  National Science Foundation/Division of Science Resources Statistics,
Survey of Federal S&E Support to Universities, Colleges, and Nonprofit Institutions

Figures from the 2003 fiscal year demonstrate where the priorities of the UT administration and Board of Regents lie. The UT administration and the UT Board of Regents agreed to raise tuition by $360 in consecutive semesters while services were cut severely. On the other hand, the Biomedical Engineering Building and the Institute for Geophysics and Advanced Computing Center (neither are on the main campus where most students attend class) cost the University $43 million. The funds for both were taken directly from designated tuition.

The UT administration claimed (see page 3) that buildings at UT are financed through "research indirect cost recovery, gifts from donors." However, our research into UT's budget contradicts this assertion. We show that the building projects at UT are financed primarily through designated tuition, tuition revenue bonds, PUF bonds, and revenue financing bonds. (see graph below)

The administration also claimed "ceasing construction of such building projects would have no impact on the University’s ability to fund its academic budget because these funds could largely not be used for such purposes." However, $43 was allocated directly from designated tuition to fund 2 buildings at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus.

Additionally, UT often looks to construct new buildings instead of renovating them. This has proven to be less cost effective.