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Legislature, Governor Approve UW Funding Requests

March 21, 2018

The University of Wyoming received its full state block grant request, increased funding for major maintenance and $85 million for construction of a new Science Initiative building as a result of action during the 2018 legislative budget session that ended last week.

Gov. Matt Mead signed the state budget and capital construction bills into law, making the funding available for the 2019-2020 biennium that begins July 1.

“We appreciate the Legislature’s continued support of the university. I’m particularly pleased that the session resulted in no further cuts to our operating budgets,” UW President Laurie Nichols says. “This will allow us to move forward with our ambitious strategic plan for the next five years, which will guide us in our efforts to reach new levels of excellence.”

UW’s “state aid” total in the budget bill for UW operations is about $380 million for the 2019-2020 biennium, which is what the university requested. This includes specific line items for the School of Energy Resources ($19,303,167), Tier 1 Engineering ($8,369,436) and the National Center for Atmospheric Research-Wyoming Supercomputing Center ($1,802,339), as well as athletics matching funds ($8 million). Included within the general fund are exception requests of $1 million for carbon engineering research and $100,000 for the UW rodeo team.

The biennium budget bill also includes an appropriation of $6.65 million to help shore up the reserve account for UW’s endowed faculty positions funded in whole or in part by investment returns on the Excellence in Higher Education Endowment.

UW will benefit from a significant increase in major maintenance funding from the state, which should total more than $41.4 million -- up 45 percent from the current biennium. The Legislature also released $1 million in previously appropriated funds for much-needed maintenance and repairs on Corbett Pool.

As part of the state’s capital construction bill, the Legislature released $85 million in previously appropriated dollars for the Science Initiative facility -- while directing UW to come up with the $15 million balance from reserves and other resources in order to reach the full $100 million project cost. The UW Board of Trustees today (Wednesday) approved funding of the $15 million from university reserves.

In November, the Board of Trustees approved the exterior design of the Science Initiative facility, which will be located at the northwest end of campus at Ninth and Lewis streets. It will feature flexible laboratories for leading life science research groups; the Center for Advanced Scientific Instrumentation; state-of-the-art greenhouses for plant research; a 200-seat active-learning classroom; and student collaboration areas to foster science innovation.

UW’s Science Initiative will, among other things, enable world-class research and education in pillars of Wyoming’s present and future economy. Through life and data sciences research that impacts areas including mineral extraction, agriculture, tourism, resource management and high technology, the initiative will have direct economic impact through efficient translation of ideas to the marketplace.

This state construction bill also requires that a task force be developed to review UW’s master housing plan before any demolition or new construction of student housing facilities takes place. The task force will include members of the Legislature, the Board of Trustees and people appointed by the governor, the state treasurer and UW’s president.

Among other things, the task force will explore funding options, UW’s master housing plan and the impact of the housing plan on private, off-campus housing. The group is to report to the Board of Trustees and legislative committees by Nov. 1.

The legislative appropriations do not include funding for pay raises for state employees or UW and community college employees. However, Nichols has indicated that the administration -- as it develops the university’s budget for the next fiscal year -- will explore the feasibility of using university resources to increase UW salaries.

Other legislation related to UW includes:

-- UW’s medical education program was funded at $33.05 million from the general fund, with approval to spend $19.6 million in funds from the family practice residency centers in Casper and Cheyenne. Also, $875,000 in Cheyenne clinic revenues was appropriated for repairs and remodeling of the facility. In addition, a select committee on the family medicine residency programs was created for an interim study and report to the Legislature by Nov. 1.

-- A separately approved measure directs UW and the Wyoming Community College Commission to develop a universal student transcript system, as well as a common course numbering methodology, while continuing efforts to facilitate the seamless transfer of credits from colleges to UW.

-- The combat veterans tuition waiver for community colleges and UW was continued at $1.2 million for the biennium. The legislation introduced some changes to the scope of the program.

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