SHSU President Dana Gibson talks SHSU campus expansion, financial future at Kat Chat town hall event
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 6, 2012 01:09
Upcoming legislative items concerning university financial issues and updates on campus expansion were the topics of discussion among administrators and students at the “Kat Chat” event.
Sam Houston State University President Dana Gibson spoke to members of the Student Government Association and less than 10 other students about legislative priorities and several projects to expand the university as a part of the university’s master plan.
According to Gibson, the state legislature cut about $80 million in incentive-based funding for higher education in its last session. She says this causes problems for the university because it receives five percent of the incentive-based funding along with 2.5 percent of performance-based funding.
Gibson also noted another issue she would also be discussing ways to make up for about $7 million in tuition fee waivers and exemptions that some students receive as veterans or fallen police officers.
The university has been dealing with these types of issues due to new provisions of the Hazlewood Act which expanded its benefits to spouses of members of the United States Armed Forces whose deaths were related to their time in service, who are missing in action, or as a result of injury they receive 100 percent veteran affairs disability, according to the SHSU Veterans Resource center.
“Last year [the university] waived $3.6 million and this year that amount is around seven million, so it’s doubled,” Gibson said.
However, Gibson offered her solution she plans to take to the legislative session.
“I’m planning to talk to legislature to try to get grant money from the [Texas] higher education coordinating board to reimburse [the university] for that money because compared to other larger schools, Sam Houston takes on a larger burden,” Gibson said. “I’m going to ask for an opportunity for reimbursement.”
In July, Associate Vice President for Student Services Keith Jenkins told members of SGA about the proposed expansions to the Lowman Student Center and the Student Health Center. However, he noted the cost of both projects could be difficult to cover.
“The state legislature sets the cap [for the student center fee] at 100 dollars,” Jenkins said. “Our fee is at 60 dollars right now. If the students vote to go to the cap, it only gets us half way there.”
Gibson addressed this problem in her legislative plans and said she would also be looking for legislative authority to help raise funding for the proposed expansions.
Right now, the project remains in the planning stages.
“The LSC expansion is still in the programming stage,” Gibson said. “We have to wait on the student referendum to raise the student center fee before moving forward with this project.”
Gibson also updated students on the university master plan that included planned facility expansions such as adding a new Event Center and a university research park.
According to Gibson, the university has taken the first steps toward building an off-campus research park for corrections and law enforcement, an addition that would be unique to Huntsville.
“There’s really no other research park for that in the United States, and it’s a multi-billion dollar industry,” Gibson said. “We’re trying to attract that industry to do research with our faculty and potentially create business opportunities.”
Gibson added the administration has created a task force for the research park to consider student, faculty and staff input on the project.
Among the other expansions to university facilities Gibson discussed were adding a new event center near Bowers Stadium that would house a new ballroom, alumni relations and parts of the athletic department. The center would be funded by alumni donations, Gibson said.
“The reason why we chose that location for the event center is to take advantage of the parking near the stadium for different events.”
Gibson said the project is still in the conceptual programming stage.
Gibson will touch on several of these same issues in her State of the University address today from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center.