Texas Senate Bill 52, passed by both chambers of the Legislature just after midnight Oct. 18, represents a big win for Tarleton State University and The Texas A&M University System. The bill is awaiting final approval from the governor.
The Tuition Revenue Bond bill authorizes $3.3 billion for higher education projects statewide, with almost $728 million for A&M System developments.
Tarleton receives $65 million to construct and outfit a new College of Health Sciences and Human Services building in Stephenville and $25 million to expand its Fort Worth campus.
Gov. Greg Abbott had asked lawmakers to consider legislation to improve higher education. House Bill 159, authored by District 58 Rep. DeWayne Burns, R-Cleburne, provided the framework for SB 52 and added funding for Tarleton as well as 70 other construction projects for post-secondary institutions.
“It’s no secret that I care deeply about the Tarleton State University family,” said Burns, a Tarleton alumnus. “I also care about the future of Texas and doing what’s in the best interest of our communities. This funding is about creating educational opportunity and preparing the workforce that will address current and future healthcare needs across our state.”
In addition to its School of Nursing – which boasts more than 1,000 students – Tarleton’s medical laboratory sciences and public health programs are preparing students for well-paying positions and helping North Texas physicians treat a variety of diseases, the university said in a news release.
To help meet the growing need for rural healthcare, the 87th Legislature appropriated $2 million during its regular session for Tarleton to develop physical therapy, occupational therapy and physician assistant programs, and a new fall 2021 offering in communication sciences and disorders is preparing students to be speech-language pathologists.
“We are profoundly grateful for the leadership of Rep. Burns, the support of Rep. Shelby Slawson and all our Tarleton advocates in the Legislature,” said university President James Hurley. “With their help and the backing of Chancellor John Sharp and the A&M System Board of Regents, we’re looking past the 21st century at state-of-the art facilities that invigorate teaching, research and discovery.”
Design is underway on a second building on Tarleton’s Fort Worth campus, with construction set to begin next year and a grand opening planned in 2024. The $66 million Interprofessional Education Building, funded by the A&M System, will add 100,000 square feet of classroom and specialized laboratory space for health sciences and kinesiology programs.
Tarleton-Fort Worth’s Central Administration Building opened in fall 2019 and now serves more than 2,000 students. Plans are for the campus to serve 9,000 students by 2030.
“We are gratified by the confidence the Legislature shows in The Texas A&M System to be good stewards of tax dollars,” Sharp said. “We will continue to earn that trust as we serve the students and citizens of this great state.”
Sharp also thanked Abbott for including higher education in the third special session this fall. SB 52 is the first legislation since 2015 to tackle a comprehensive list of capital projects for the state’s public colleges and universities.
In addition to Senate Bill 52, the Legislature approved $20 million as part of SB 8 to support at-risk students attending comprehensive regional universities, including 11 A&M System schools.