North Texas Daily

Texas Legislature grants nearly $300 million to UNT campuses for construction

Texas Legislature grants nearly $300 million to UNT campuses for construction

Texas Legislature grants nearly $300 million to UNT campuses for construction
October 28
13:30 2021

Texas lawmakers passed a $3 billion bill for university construction projects across the state before ending this year’s third special legislative session on Oct. 19. 

Senate Bill 52 will grant a $113 million tuition revenue bond to UNT’s Denton campus. These funds will be used to build a new science and technology building. Additionally, UNT-Dallas will receive $100 million for the construction of a new science building.

The bill will also grant $84 million to the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth for “campus space optimization and realignment.”

President Neal Smatresk said the school is rapidly running out of space to support students and their research on campus. He cited the school’s growth of 4,200 students over the past few years, as well as the increasing numbers of master’s students and international applicants, as the reasons for the newly planned building.

“Our science facilities are bursting at the seams, or in some cases, unable to support all the research that we need to have done,” Smatresk said. “So this building is incredibly important to our future and will really help launch our research activities.”

The new science and technology building would allow the school to better accommodate its growing campus by hiring more faculty, providing facilities to house graduate students and faculty, bringing in more doctoral students and creating facilities for good teaching spaces. The new building should also increase the amount of federal funds that UNT is bringing in, which Smatresk said is a major goal for the facility.

Orlando Pérez, dean of the UNTD School of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said the biology program has grown about 2,000 percent over the past five years. Additionally, the information technology program has more than doubled since 2015 and will also benefit from the new STEM building.

Pérez said the new STEM facility will allow for the possibility of new offices, classrooms and state-of-the-art lab technology. Additionally, the science lab will allow the School of Liberal Arts and Sciences to expand their offered majors, including a planned chemistry degree.

“The interaction that students have with the laboratory equipment and their faculty is going to be significantly enhanced by these new laboratories and infrastructure,” Pérez said.  “It’s transformational for UNT Dallas, for our STEM students, and I think it’s going to affect the entire campus.”

Environmental science sophomore Ariana Mendoza said many of her science courses have been instructed in crowded classrooms in the Business Leadership Building. Mendoza feels that the large capacity of these classes has negatively impacted many science students’ learning experience, as they are unable to interact as much as they would like with their professors.

“You don’t get the quality education that you’re paying for with having 100 plus students in every class,” Mendoza said. “There’s a lot of questions that need to be asked that aren’t necessarily answered. [The professors] just don’t have enough time for that.”

Mendoza said the addition of a new science and technology research building would greatly benefit STEM students and their “overloaded” faculty. By giving the department its own building, she believes students will be more encouraged to continue their paths in STEM education and careers.

“It’s what we deserve,” Mendoza said. “It shows that the school is taking us seriously. It encourages students by showing that they’re standing beside us, beside science, and they’re giving us a better place to receive our education.”

While an exact timeline is not yet known for UNTD’s planned facility, Pérez said it is estimated to have a three-year completion process. Smatresk said a committee will be put together with the collaboration of UNT System project planners and anticipates the design phase to start sometime next spring.

“If we want to keep this progress going, then we need to be able to provide facilities to accommodate our growth,” Smatresk said. “This is a great move, and it’s something that we’re really thankful for. We’re thankful for the legislators who fought hard to get us to these funds.”

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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