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Texas Regents OK $1.1 Billion Of Tuition Bond Requests

DALLAS – The University of Texas System will seek authorization for $1.1 billion of state tuition bonds for 16 projects at 15 campuses from the Texas Legislature.

The University of Texas Board of Regents approved the list of bond-financed projects at Wednesday’s special meeting after limiting all but one school to a single project.

University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio was given the go-ahead for an $8 million laboratory on aging in San Antonio and a $6 million diabetes institute at its campus in Laredo.

Similar requests for bonds to finance campus projects will be submitted by the Texas A&M System and the Texas State University System. A total of 50 state schools and institutions, including the UT System, are requesting tuition bonds.

A measure to allow the issuance of tuition revenue bonds by state colleges and universities was one of the 30 bills filed by Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, before the start of the 2013 session. A similar measure failed in the 2011 Legislature.

UT regents approved bond requests totaling $804.2 million from the system’s nine academic campuses and $285.9 million from the six medical science institutions.

Proceeds would provide funding for $1.9 billion of projects. Total debt service on the bonds through fiscal 2015 of $200 million is based on 20-year bonds at 6% interest.

The bonds would be supported by all legally available revenue, including tuition generated at the schools.

In the past the Legislature has included reimbursement for debt service on the tuition bonds in the higher education appropriation.

The bonds for the UT schools would be issued through the UT System’s Revenue Financing System.

Each school took previous requests for tuition bonds individually to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, but this time all the requests were funneled through the regents.

The new process is a strategic and conservative approach to asking the Legislature for the additional debt, said UT spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo.

“We want to ensure that any requests for tuition revenue bonds are aligned with our mission of creating universities of the 21st century,” she said.

The largest single project approved was $151.6 million from the University of Texas at Brownsville for a new campus in the Rio Grande Valley.

Regents approved a $95 million of bonds for a $310 million engineering building at the main campus in Austin, but the school will have to finance a proposed $58 million graduate business school on its own.

Other bond projects approved by the regents include a $99 million research facility at UT-El Paso and a $98 million science and engineering building at UT-Pan American in Edinburg.

Lawmakers haven’t authorized the tuition bonds since 2006.

In 2006, state schools asked the Legislature for $3.7 billion of tuition revenue bonds, and lawmakers authorized $1.86 billion. Earlier legislatures had approved a total of $2.4 billion of the bonds.

The first tuition bond authorization in 1997 totaled $638.4 million.

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