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A Non-Growth Spurt

Though university officials around the state were hoping that the special session might open the door for the issuance of bonds for campus construction projects, that opportunity never developed in a significant way.

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Though university officials around the state were hoping that the special session might open the door for the issuance of bonds for campus construction projects, that opportunity never developed in a significant way.

House Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch, R-Dallas, attempted to add a provision to a fiscal matters bill to allow tuition revenue bonds to be issued provided a set of very difficult criteria was met. In fact, only one project in the state would have actually met them: a new engineering education and research center at the University of Texas at Austin.

"It's hard to have a new Silicon Valley here in Austin without a first-class engineering facility at UT," Branch told the Texas Tribune at the start of the special session, referencing a stated desire of Gov. Rick Perry's to foster just such an environment in the state's capital city.

And that was it for major higher education moves in the first called session of the 82nd Legislature. But significant action may lie ahead.

During the session, in response to controversy surrounding the future of higher education systems, particularly the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System, legislative leaders created a Joint Oversight Committee on Higher Education Governance, Excellence, and Transparency.

Co-chairs Branch and Senate Higher Education Chairwoman Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, attempted to organize a hearing prior to the end of the regular session but did not succeed. Some members hope one can be scheduled as early as this summer.

"I’m glad to hear about the committee in the Legislature," said newly named A&M System interim chancellor Jay Kimbrough. "I look forward to working with them and talking with them. The solution here is to have these issues vetted, and everybody agrees on efficiency transparency, and accountability and enhancing as we move down the road."

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