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January 28, 2005 :: Teaching, Research Top Capital Bond Priorities

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Facilities that directly benefit teaching and learning on college campuses are the primary focus of the proposed $500 million higher education capital bond issue, according to higher education officials.

A functional analysis of the 140 projects compiled by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education indicates that more than 60.2 percent of the projected construction costs will go toward meeting the growing need for classroom instruction facilities. The record college enrollment being experienced throughout the state, more than 235,000 students, has resulted in overcrowded classrooms on many campuses.

Laboratory and technical needs have changed significantly since the last systemwide capital improvement plan was passed in 1992. Because so many facilities are now outmoded, science and research projects are a priority and amount to 19.3 percent of the total. Planned construction includes Oklahoma State University’s Rural Health, Science and Technology Center, the University of Oklahoma’s chemistry and biochemistry teaching and research-laboratory complex, Tulsa Community College’s West Campus math and science building and Oklahoma Panhandle State University’s science and agriculture building.

The remaining 20 percent of the funding is for functions such as student service facilities (9.3 percent), infrastructure (7.5 percent), and public service and libraries (3.6 percent).

Gov. Brad Henry is a strong supporter of the proposed $500 million bond issue. “If we want to create the kind of environment that will attract high-tech industries and high-paying jobs, we have to retool our universities and make their facilities second to none,” said Henry. “This bond issue will help accomplish that goal.”

Examining the type of projects being proposed, 63 percent of the construction funding will go to new construction, often additions to existing structures. More than one-third (33.8 percent) of the $500 million will be spent on renovations of existing buildings or repairing and replacing much-needed infrastructure, and 3.2 percent will go for equipment, land and building acquisition.

“The project list is the result of a careful planning process that reflects a common strategic focus helping our students better meet the demands of the modern job market,” said Chancellor Paul Risser. “These projects reflect the most pressing higher education capital needs throughout the state.”

Proceeds from the education lottery have been identified by Henry as a potential source to fund the payments of the $500 million bond issue. Action on the proposal is expected early in the legislative session that begins Feb. 7.

A complete list of projects is available at www.capbond05.info.