New bill to aid in funding of new UT engineering school through bonds

Joshua Fechter

A bill in the Texas Senate could help fund the construction of a new building for the Cockrell School of Engineering by allowing the UT System Board of Regents to issue bonds for the project.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would grant the board authority to issue tuition revenue bonds for various construction projects. Tuition revenue bonds are repaid using a revenue stream that includes tuition, university funds, state funds and other funding sources.

The board may only issue tuition revenue bonds for facilities-related projects.

Gregory Fenves, Cockrell School of Engineering dean, said the project would cost about $310 million from 2013 to 2018. He said the project will be funded by $105 million in Permanent University Fund bonds approved by the board in August, $105 million in philanthropic funds and $95 million in tuition revenue bonds.

If the legislature grants the board authority to issue tuition revenue bonds, the project is expected to be completed in July 2016.

Fenves said the proposed Engineering Education and Research Center would replace the Engineering Sciences Building, located west of San Jacinto Boulevard and south of E. Dean Keeton Street. Fenves said some facilities in the current building are almost 50 years old and are inadequate to serve the school’s growing needs.

“This building is going to transform the school through project-based learning and the development of research,” Fenves said.

Fenves said the proposed eight-story building would include teaching laboratories for students to complete design projects and research laboratories for students and faculty to conduct research projects and would house the electrical and computer engineering department. The building would be connected to Ernest Cockrell Jr. Hall.

The board must send the Legislature a list of all projects the system intends to fund with tuition revenue bonds to include in the bill.

The bill also grants other Texas public university systems the authority to issue tuition revenue bonds, including the Texas State University System and Texas A&M University System.

Printed on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012 as: Bill to fund engineering building, other public university projects