3D printer

A Makerbot 3D printer makes an eagle head at UNT Discovery Park. The machine is part of the university’s Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing, which was awarded $10 million in funding this legislative session.

The University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University were able to see success come out of a legislative session that focused heavily on funding public education.

From the primary funding mechanism for public four-year colleges to line items for big ticket items, university officials said they were pleased with the outcomes from the state’s 86th legislative session, which ended May 27.

While some measures, such as tuition revenue bonds to finance new buildings, didn’t pass, overall it was a good session for higher education, said Kevin Cruser, director of governmental and legislative affairs at TWU.

“You need your hometown representatives to fight for you in order to have success in the budget, and they all went to bat for education in the budget,” he said. “We were just really lucky and pleased to have great support from our Denton County representatives and senators. The entire delegation always had an open door for us and really went to bat for us.”

Formula funding — the primary funding mechanism for public universities in Texas — gives schools a dollar amount based on how many credit hours students take. For the next biennium, all state universities are fully funded with adjustments for projected enrollment growth and inflation. This means millions more in the budgets for both universities in Denton.

Neal Smatresk, president of UNT, said the large increases will mean faculty and staff raises, more research funding, and increases in scholarship money and financial aid.

“This year, it’s great timing for it because we’re almost certainly going to have the largest freshman class we’ve ever had and we may have the largest transfer class we’ve ever had,” he said. “Enrollment is strong, and now we have access to dollars to give our students the courses they need.”

UNT and TWU both also had multimillion-dollar projects funded through the budget. At TWU, the Institute for Women’s Leadership will get $5 million a year for the next two years to continue funding its growth. UNT will get the same amount to expand its Center for Agile and Adaptive Additive Manufacturing.

Both schools also had requests in for tuition revenue bonds, which are a mechanism to fund academic buildings on campus. UNT and TWU both requested the funding to build science buildings on their Denton campuses.

While the projects didn’t pass this session, both Cruser and Smatresk hope such legislation will be back on the table in the next session in 2021.

“As we grow, we need appropriate facilities to host the faculty, staff and students that come in to meet our expanded mission,” Smatresk said. “We’re not the university that’s feeling the pinch, but certainly at our campus and in Frisco, we’re going to have a need to provide more facilities in the near future.”

JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @jennafduncan.

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