Future funding for WTAMU a top priority

The Prairie. Art by Chris Brockman.

The Prairie. Art by Chris Brockman.

Many students received an email recently providing general updated information about various issues going on at WTAMU. One of the biggest issues elaborated on in the message was that of university funding. As stated in the message, WT has offered three priority funding items for consideration to the Texas Legislature. These are two exceptional item requests and one capital item request.

“Exceptional items can be anything. Buildings, equipment, new faculty, even program support,” Dr. Wade Shaffer, Provost/Vice President for Academic Affairs, said. “These are items that exist outside of the regular University budget, and are funded specially by the legislature. On the other hand, when you talk about capital items, you’re referring to some kind of physical need, which might be a building, or it might be renovations of a building, a new addition to a building or something like that.”

The exceptional item requests listed in the message are for a student success initiative in which WT is asking for $1 million over a two year period and an engineering program development initiative in which WT is asking for approximately $2.1 million over the two year period. The student success initiative would provide additional funding for the Student Success Center so that WT can provide enhanced support services for at-risk students, expand its deployment of learning communities and establish living-learning communities.

“We have a brand new thing called Living-Learning communities that are going to start in the fall,” Shaffer said. “This will allow students to live on the same floor of the same residence hall and take two or more classes together. We would like to hire a student coordinator for this project. Data gathered from these kinds of programs tells us that students involved in them typically have a higher GPA.”

The message also states that funding for engineering program development would facilitate the hiring of additional faculty for the environmental engineering program, hire two faculty members for electrical engineering and purchase needed equipment for the program. WT has also requested funding for the construction of a stand-alone 65,000 square foot facility in downtown Amarillo to house the WT Amarillo Center. The center would house approximately 17 classrooms, two graduate seminar rooms, a computer lab, a student study space, clinical space for the social work outreach program, counseling space for the Small Business Development center and faculty offices. Students seem to be pleased with WT’s efforts and feel assured that WT is doing everything in its power to provide the best for them.

“I think the opportunities WT offers are incredibly important to students,” Blaze Diamond, junior Music major, said. “They provide the ability for students to pursue routes and paths down education that otherwise would have seemed impossible or stiffened by the large financial burden that higher education imposes. I think there’s also a mental benefit as well. It affirms students that someone sees them as capable and worth the financial effort to see their success achieved.”

In regards to where all of the funding for these initiatives would come from, Shaffer said all of it would be funded by the Texas Legislature. Although WT has several other methods and sources from which they obtain funding, the particular items listed in the message would all be funded by the Texas Legislature if they are approved. Vice President for Business and Finance Gary Barnes said if WT gets the funding they are requesting, it would allow them to purchase or build a stand-alone facility just for WT. For that building, they are asking for $15 million.

“[The Texas legislature meets] every other year, for 140 days,” Barnes said. “During those 140 days, their one and only responsibility is to pass the budget for the next two years.”

According to Barnes, part of that process is the Legislature asks for all universities and agencies to submit their requests.

“The three primary requests we have are for the Student Success Center, to enhance what we can do for the students,” Barnes said. “Then we have a capital request for the engineering program. With engineering, we already have mechanical and environmental, and we just started civil. The next one we want to do is electrical. It takes quite a bit of equipment for electrical, and we would need more space and faculty. The other capital request is for a WT facility to be built in downtown Amarillo.” Right now, we lease three floors of the Chase tower in downtown Amarillo.”

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