Hey, Curious Campus: Why does UT-Austin have all this money for athletics but not academics?

Megan Menchaca

You may have heard about the $7.5 million renovation to the football locker rooms that was unveiled in August 2017. Or the $175 million plan to renovate the south end zone of DKR that was announced in August 2018.

Or any of the other multi-million dollar projects announced by Texas Athletics in the past few years.

When one of our readers asked us, “How does Texas Athletics raise so much money for locker room upgrades, but the University can’t raise enough money for improvements to campus security?” we looked into it as part of Curious Campus, our new series where we’ll be answering reader-submitted questions every week.

Mary Knight, associate vice president for finance, said athletics pays for everything — stadium upgrades, salaries, utilities and security — through the revenue athletics generates from tickets and donors.

“No University or student funds are utilized for athletics,” said John Bianco, associate athletic director for communications. “We are a self-sustained athletic department and actually provide money back to the University.”

And while Texas Athletics is self-sustaining, the University’s budget is funded through a variety of sources, including from the Texas Legislature, student tuition, research grants, an endowment in the Texas Constitution known as the Permanent University Fund and other various endowments.

“We do have finite funds in a lot of areas and so there has to be decisions made on prioritizing things,” Knight said. “(If we want to request more funds), we can sometimes get donors to support certain things or we can charge fees for certain things.”

However, there are a number of ways the University can raise extra funds outside of the established budget, including by soliciting funds from donors through the University Development Office.

“There is lot of focus on raising money from people who are alumni as well as major corporations and philanthropy organizations,” Knight said. “But when we receive money from a donor, we have to use it for exactly the purpose they gave it to us for. We can't just say, ‘We're going to use it for safety and security.’”

The University can also request extra funds from UT System Permanent University Fund. After the death of Haruka Weiser in 2016, President Gregory Fenves requested a security assessment from the Department of Safety. Many of their recommendations, including increased lighting and new security systems, were funded by a request for funds from the Permanent University Fund.

James Johnson, assistant vice president for campus safety, said the University has invested approximately $13 million in additional campus safety projects since 2016. And along with the recommendations from DPS, Johnson said the University is also planning on funding campus safety programming for marginalized students and students who live off campus.

So, as Texas Athletics continues to spend millions on funding large stadium improvements because of their large sources of income, UT is also working to fund campus safety improvements, just on a smaller scale because of budgetary limitations.