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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

ABOR requests $1 billion to upgrade research infrastructure

Jordin+OConnor++%2F++Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AChair+Rick+Myers+at+the+Arizona+Board+of+Regents+meeting.+
Jordin O’Connor
Jordin O’Connor / Arizona Daily Wildcat Chair Rick Myers at the Arizona Board of Regents meeting.

The Arizona Board of Regents will ask the state Legislature to authorize a $1 billion bond package for the state’s three public universities.

The funding from the “Competitiveness Package on Higher Education” would be split three ways with $450 million going to the UA, $400 million to ASU, and $150 million to NAU. If approved, the bond money will be used to upgrade the research infrastructure at each institution.

“What we’re trying to do is let the world know that we’re serious about research and development in Arizona, particularly at the university level,” said Mark Killian, vice chairman for the board of regents.

Research infrastructure development includes the construction of new facilities and the renovation of existing buildings, said Jennifer Barton, interim vice president for research at the UA. The work would begin in 2016 and continue for three to four years, she added.

With tentative designs already in the works, several new UA buildings would be built with the funding. These include an “engineering innovation” building as well as an interdisciplinary chemistry building, Barton said, adding that bioscience labs would also be constructed on both the UA campus and the Phoenix Biomedical Campus.

“The underlying goal here is economic development,” Barton said, noting that once the new facilities are in place, the research performed there will likely bring millions of dollars in federal grants to the state.

Rep. Ethan Orr, District 9 state representative and vice-chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee, said despite Arizona’s economic strains, he predicts a healthy return on investment from the bond package, citing a similar package from 2003 that brought more than $400 million a year for additional research into the state.

Emphasizing the “high-stakes” nature of scientific research, Orr said the proposed bond would place the UA “in a position to compete on a global level for these highly competitive grants and would bring money into the community.”

Along with the economic benefits to the state, the regents said they believe the bond package would have a positive impact on students in that the new research opportunities would attract world-class researchers and professors from around the world as well as give more students the chance to engage in research of their own, said Rick Myers, the board’s chairman.

“Years from now, [the regents] want people to look at [UA graduates] and continue to say, ‘Wow, you graduated from one of the top public research universities in the world,’” Myers said. “That’s good for every one of our students, and it’s good for this state to have that kind of an asset and a resource.”

– Follow Mark Armao @MarkArmao

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