Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Despite budget crunch, university has been able to build on

Today, buildings with grandiose architectural designs and state-of-the-art scientific features now seem to technologically overshadow Old Main — like the green solar panels bolstered on the side of the new Agricultural Sciences building or the towering brick structure of the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Not too far away is the USU Innovation Campus, which houses ultra-modern buildings dedicated to research efforts.

Since 2008, when the nation’s economy fell into a recession, the eight public colleges and universities within the Utah System of Higher Education lost ten of millions of dollars in state appropriations — $25.2 million of which was cut from USU alone. But even over those last four years, those institutions, including USU, have built and will continue to build more facilities.

 Elsewhere in the state, Utah Valley University broke ground last year for a $30.6 million, 160,000-square-foot science building and the first phase of the University of Utah’s new home for its School of Business was completed last year, rising eight stories over the south end of campus.

The situation seems to be at odds with USU increasing tuition, laying off employees and experiencing a significant shortfall in operation and maintenance funding from the state — all due to the budget cuts. The answer to how USU is able to build as many buildings as it has is a not an easy one, but it is commonly misunderstood where building funding comes from.

Dave Cowley, USU’s vice president for business and finance says the same pot of money used to fund buildings is not the same pot used for faculty and staff compensation increases. Some of those dollars are one-time funds — to actually build a facility — while others are on-going from year to year — in order to keep the facility running year after year. Herald Journal