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UTPB President Puts in Legislative Requests

Posted on January 30, 2019

To help fulfill the University of Texas Permian Basin’s goals of increasing the number of degrees it awards, attracting and retaining faculty, staff and students and ramping up important programs, President Sandra Woodley recently met with the local legislative delegation in Austin to make her wish list known for this session of the legislature.

Woodley said she spoke with Reps. Brooks Landgraf, R-Odessa, Tom Craddick, R-Midland, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, last week.

“The key messages remain the importance of the Permian Basin and the economic opportunities that are thriving here. We at the university want to make sure we’re able to do our part,” Woodley said.

Workforce shortages in the Permian Basin could potentially be an impediment to achieving the area’s possibilities, so “the university is laser-focused on doubling the number of degrees in high- demand fields,” Woodley said.

She said UTPB gets about $39 million every year from the state, including base appropriations and non-formula appropriations. Those would include funds for the Small Business Development Administration, the John Ben Shepperd Public Leadership Institute, engineering and nursing.

UTPB has requested $2 million each year of the biennium to help with recruiting and retaining faculty, staff and students, especially with the high cost of living in Odessa.

Woodley also is requesting $40 million in tuition revenue bonds for renovations to the Mesa Building, the main academic building on campus and one of the original structures.

She said UTPB wants to make sure there are no reductions to its budget.

“We need every penny. We requested more beyond that, so we’re hopeful we’ll be able to retain current budget but also to increase our operational dollars a little bit,” Woodley said.

She added that it’s a long way to the end of the legislative session and the budget takes many forms.

“I would say early indications are that higher ed is a priority in the budget, so I feel hopeful that the outcome is going to be good,” Woodley said Monday.

The Associated Press reported Friday that Seliger lost his position as chair on the Senate Higher Education Committee and his membership on the committee; he was also taken off the public education committee and the powerful finance committee.

Asked if she thought Seliger losing his committee assignments on the higher education committee would be a problem, she said she didn’t know the answer to that.

“But I think all three in our legislative delegation are friends of the university. They work hard for appropriations and I expect they’ll continue” to prioritize the needs of the Permian Basin “regardless of what their committee assignments are, Woodley said.

She added that she will be in Austin quite a bit.

Woodley said she thinks all three lawmakers understand the importance of the Permian Basin in the United States and world and they share her belief in the need for a strong university here.