El Paso Universities Set To Receive Millions From Texas Legislature For Campus Construction Projects

Texas lawmakers this week passed a bill that provides $ 3.3 billion to fund investment projects at several public universities and colleges, including the University of Texas at El Paso and Texas Tech University Health Sciences. Center El Paso. Schools are expected to receive $ 52 million and $ 59 million respectively.

UTEP will build an advanced teaching and learning complex to support its College of Liberal Arts, according to the bill. TTUHSC El Paso will use the money for its dental school building.

Texas Tech’s Woody L. Hunt School of Dentistry is the first dental school in a border town and the fourth dental school in Texas. The school hosted its inaugural class of 40 students last summer and will open a public community clinic later this year, according to its website.

TTUHSC El Paso President Richard Lange said he was grateful that funding was available.

“We are incredibly grateful that there is TRB (Tuition Fee Tax) money available and coming to this community at both institutions, Texas Tech and UTEP.”

Lange explained that with the exception of just three schools, each health sciences center received the same amount of funding at $ 59 million.

“There are no winners and no losers,” he said of the legislation, Senate Bill 52 by State Senator Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe.

However, Lange said the dental project will cost $ 180 million and that he and other school officials will need to discuss next steps on how to pay the remaining $ 121 million.

“We just found out (SB 52) yesterday and until we found out yesterday and today we weren’t even sure the full amount,” Lange said on Wednesday.

The school currently has temporary space for a dental clinic that allows them to see 60,000 patients per year. Students attend classes in the school’s medical science building.

The future dental school building will not only be a combination of a clinic and a learning center for students, but will also include pediatric and primary care, Lange said.

“Dental care affects health in many ways, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, nutrition,” Lange said. “And conversely, many people with dental problems also have health problems. So being able to take care of all of these in one place is convenient for patients, but more importantly, it coordinates care. “

State Senator César Blanco, D-El Paso, who sits on the Texas Senate higher education committee and co-author of the bill, said the funding would help both schools fulfill their missions.

“As a member of the Senate Higher Education Committee, I am proud to help secure the resources UTEP and TTUHSCEP need to provide our students with a quality education and learning environment.” Blanco said in a press release.

Dr. Richard Black demonstrates the use of mannequins in the dental school lab, where students will learn how to perform the practical aspects of dentistry. (Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters)

The funding will help replace one of the oldest classroom buildings at UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts. The current structures, which are more than 40 years old, “have significant deferred maintenance needs”, according to UTEP documents. The construction of the complex is estimated at 113 million dollars.

UTEP officials did not respond to requests for comment. .

Gov. Greg Abbott added higher education construction projects to the Special Legislative Session‘s agenda on Friday, days before the end of the third session earlier this week.

Texas lawmakers last approved a tuition tax liability bill in 2015. The bill renames the obligations as capital construction assistance projects.

The UT system, which includes UTEP, is expected to receive $ 814 million and the Texas Tech system will receive $ 271 million.

The bill awaits the governor’s signature.

Cover photo: The Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine is West Texas’ premier dental school. Its first cohort of 40 students will begin classes in July. (Corrie Boudreaux / El Paso Matters)

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