The University of Texas at Austin is asking state legislators for millions of dollars during the 2023 legislative session.
Every two years prior to session, Texas public colleges and universities submit an appropriation request to the governor’s office and the Legislative Budget Board outlining their funding requests. This includes funding for core functions as well as special initiatives, according to Megan Menchaka, who is in charge of higher education at the Austin American-Statesman.
“UT has requested $48 million from the Legislature to fund these exceptional items, which are split between $25.8 million for the Texas Center for Cybersecurity Applied, $18.5 million to develop the Molten Salt Digital Reactor, and $4 million for long-term COVID research.” . Menchaka said. “This is the largest amount of exceptional funding that UT has requested in more than a decade. In the last session, when government agencies faced cuts in public funding due to COVID, the university asked for about $25 million.”
Funding for COVID research will be used to expand the staffing that currently runs the existing long-term COVID clinic at Dell School of Medicine. Ultimately, UT wants to partner with other Texas clinics and academic institutions and help set up long-term COVID centers across the state to provide treatment for Texans who are facing the disease, Menchaca said.
“Studies show that millions of people in the US have developed protracted COVID — a disease in which COVID symptoms last weeks or months after someone first becomes infected with the virus,” she said. “This funding will allow the clinic to increase its research capacity and participate in new trials of new treatments for long-term COVID.”
The largest element of the ticket, accounting for more than half of the funding for requests for exceptional items, is the Texas Center for Applied Cybersecurity. This will be used to educate students in cybersecurity techniques and UT is ultimately aiming to create a stream of cybersecurity professionals.
“The request notes that a projected annual shortage of 1.5 million cybersecurity positions, referred to as a state and national emergency, and a lack of diversity in the field,” Menchaca said. “27% of professionals (in this field) are people of color and 25% are women. Thus, this center will focus on addressing both of these factors, offering a secondary direction in the field of applied cybersecurity.”
Menchaca said the university usually receives most of the funding it requests from the state, although not every request for special subjects is completed every session.
“Like many public universities, UT has experienced that overall government funding as a percentage of its overall budget has dropped significantly over the past few decades,” she said. “This year, along with their exceptional subject requests, UT and other institutions are asking for more overall government investment as they face inflation, COVID and a year of mostly flat tuition.”