Statewide Bond Issue Will Modernize Higher Education System
Oklahoma Higher Education Bond Web Site: http://www.okhighered.org/capital-bond
OSU President and System CEO David Schmidly said the bond issue will benefit colleges and universities throughout Oklahoma and help institutions upgrade and add new facilities to deal with growing enrollments and the economic development and research needs of the state.
“Oklahoma’s public colleges and universities are serving more than 228,000 students annually,” Schmidly said. “The OSU System had a record enrollment of 32,672 students this semester. Students expect and deserve a high-quality education. While our state can be proud of excellent instruction in the classroom, our campus facilities do not always generate the same sense of pride. It’s time to make an investment in facilities that will prepare students for the future.”
A similar bond issue was proposed during the last legislative session, but the idea was put on hold until an appropriate funding mechanism can be found. Legislative leaders and Gov. Brad Henry have all pledged their support to try again next session.
At OSU-Stillwater, approximately $72.7 million would be combined with $3.2 million from other sources for the first phase of a new OSU Science and Technology Center. The five-story center would dramatically improve OSU’s research capabilities by providing state-of-the-art laboratories and other research space. The funding also would renovate and update existing laboratories that are vacated by scientists who move into the new center.
Schmidly said the bond issue also would provide $8.8 million as partial funding to restore and renovate South Murray Hall. The $16.8 million project would include renovations to create additional teaching space, classrooms, computer laboratories and new auditorium lecture halls.
A new classroom facility, in partnership with Northern Oklahoma College (NOC), is planned on the north side of campus. NOC has pledged $3 million for the building, and OSU will use $1 million from the bond issue and $3 million from other sources for the project. The building will contain a 250-seat auditorium lecture hall, numerous lecture halls, computer labs and other facilities. The building will provide much-needed classroom space for OSU, and a portion of the facility will be used by NOC, which is contributing nearly half the cost.
“The modern classrooms in this facility that will be used by both institutions recognize the importance of the OSU-NOC Gateway partnership and our students,” Schmidly said. “The partnership is working well, and it clearly enhances student access and success at OSU.”
The Gateway Program allows students who do not meet academic requirements at a comprehensive university to take courses at NOC, then transfer to OSU. Schmidly said the OSU College of Veterinary Medicine hopes to use $1.2 million of the bond issue money for repair and renovation projects at the Boren Veterinary Teaching Hospital and McElroy Hall. The projects have been deferred over several years due to lack of funding.
At OSU-Tulsa, $14 million would be used to build an Advanced Technology Research Center (ATRC) that will focus on the development of next generation composites and materials for industries such as aerospace, biotechnology, telecommunications and manufacturing.
Planners say the ATRC will create new jobs and attract new industries to the Tulsa region. The center will produce an annual payroll of about $4 million and attract an additional $5-6 million of federal and private research funds, annually. However, the greatest impact should come from commercialization of technology developed from the research. Economic impact of these start-up companies could exceed $400 million annually within 10-15 years.
The OSU Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa hopes to use $4.4 million in bond monies to expand the Dunlap Auditorium, replace outdated equipment and renovate facilities.
OSU-Okmulgee needs $6 million for building a Health Science and Technology Center that will focus on needs of rural Oklahomans. The center will be used for applied research, technology transfer, technical education and clinical residency. One area of focus will be to train a rural healthcare workforce with the specific mission of orthopedic healthcare and the prevention and treatment of diabetes. The campus also will use an additional $1 million for renovation of its Hospitality Program facilities and improvements to streets and parking areas.
Schmidly said OSU-Oklahoma City would use $8 million in bond proceeds and $2.75 million in additional funds for several projects. These include an Agriculture Resource and Training Center that will consist of a major addition to its horticulture center, as well as another structure to house the Veterinary Technology and the Turf Grass programs. The buildings would house classrooms, laboratories, faculty offices and administrative areas. Also planned is a new Academic Technologies facility that would join the Engineering Technologies and Business Technologies buildings. Other needs include a new physical plant facility and the purchase of property that is critical to the institution’s growth. OSU-OKC is one of the fastest growing campuses in the OSU-System.
Schmidly said the last major bond issue for capital improvements at Oklahoma colleges and universities was passed in 1992. He added that if funded, the bond issue will have a major economic impact on the state.
Research conducted by the Center for Economic and Business Development at Southwestern Oklahoma State University shows that between 2004 and 2009 (the estimated start up and completion dates for each project) nearly 4,000 additional construction jobs would be created in communities across Oklahoma, both in urban and rural areas. In addition, the construction projects could result in an economic impact of more than $737 million statewide.
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