Academic funding must remain top priority

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Though it is important for university officials to shine a light on athletics, academics are the driving force behind Texas State and deserve just as much, if not more, time, effort and financial attention from administrators.

In previous Main Points this year, the editorial board has addressed various areas of that need to be improved in the athletics department, including marketing and merchandising. Although athletics brings millions of dollars into the university, Texas State was founded with one mission—education. The university’s academic programs deserve to be a priority among administrators and cannot be overlooked in the grand scheme of Texas State’s operations.

The amount of athletic spending per athlete has more than doubled from about $26,000 in 2005 to an estimated $69,000 by 2012 This is because students voted to pass a referendum in 2008 to increase the athletics fee $2 per year until it reached $20 as it did this year. If students were willing to raise the fee to improve athletics, they should be willing to pass a student referendum for much-need academic buildings.

University officials have requested millions of dollars in recent legislative sessions to fund new buildings in fields such as engineering and health professions, only to have their requests fall by the wayside. With a shortfall of statewide funding for education, it is up to administrators to find ways to balance budgets, cut costs and funnel money from various departments into a solid reserve for future academic building construction.

Extra funding from the state legislature is a plus, but time has proved it is not a guarantee. Skyrocketing enrollment numbers and growing freshman classes equal more tuition and fees to boost the budget. In addition, officials should always be finding ways to cut “earmarks” of frivolous spending in the overall budget while funneling any excess funds to construct and renovate academic buildings.

More action must be taken on the part of the university to make these goals and initiatives for new academic buildings a reality. In the past four years, students have witnessed the construction of the PACE Center, the Performing Arts Center, the Bobcat Stadium expansion and on-going renovation of the Psychology turned Comal Building, among other residential hall projects.

Having brand-new athletics facilities and residence halls only goes so far when attempting to increase research expenditures while attracting top-of-the-line instructors and exceptional students in more technical fields such as engineering and science. It is time officials halt plans to renovate athletics facilities as well as the technology and structure of existing classrooms in buildings like Derrick and Evans Liberal Arts. Implementing new projector screens in classrooms, improving Jones Dining Hall, renovating the LBJ Student Center and adding seats in Strahan Coliseum can wait. Officials’ efforts will be more worthwhile if they are put toward gathering enough funding to construct more academic buildings first and foremost.

Refining academics at Texas State should be a priority for administrators as the university works to rise up and push toward the distinguished Tier One Research University status. Potentially joining the likes of Texas A&M University and the University of Texas one day is no easy feat. The road to Tier One status cannot be paved with good intentions and initiatives alone—state legislators and university officials must take action to fund the construction of new academic buildings in order to keep Texas State’s eye on the prize.