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Governors Prioritize Funding Toward High-Tech Facilities

February 11, 2014

Having world-class facilities to train workers or support research in fields most likely to benefit the state is a draw for many reasons. Attracting outside investment, retaining talent and generating buzz are just a few of the benefits. Last year, Connecticut lawmakers dedicated more than $2 billion to expand science and technology education on the campuses of the University of Connecticut, including construction of new STEM facilities and for build research and teaching labs. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is the latest state leader to announce funding proposals aimed at either building new facilities or making capital improvements for training students in high-wage, high-demand fields.

Following years of cuts to higher education during the recession, many states are poised to dedicate significant funds for scholarship programs, tuition freezes and for training more students in STEM fields – a common theme during the State of the State addresses. Supporting the notion that a college degree is worth the cost, a recent analysis from the Pew Research Center found the widest earnings gap for college graduates in 48 years. The report, The Rising Cost of Not Going to College, noted that adults with a high-school diploma earned just 62 percent of the typical salary of a college graduate. Moreover, Millennial college graduates working full time earned more annually – about $17,500 more – than their counterparts with only a high school diploma. In previous generations, the pay gap was significantly smaller, the report finds.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder is requesting $150 million in bond funds for job-creation infrastructure in the FY15 budget. This bond funding will enable colleges and universities to compete for funds to improve their talent programs, according to budget documents. Within the university system, $100 million would be available to allow engineering programs to compete for capital improvement funds aimed at increasing the number of engineering graduates. Another $50 million would allow community colleges to retool equipment for high-skill occupations. The colleges must demonstrate employer demand within their region.

The governor also recommends $5 million in one-time general funds to establish an Automotive, Engineering and Manufacturing Technology fund. Marketing the state’s automotive sector on a global scale and engaging public-private partners for pilot projects in supply chain management and logistics is the intended outcome.  

Similar announcements were made earlier this year in Florida, Georgia, Rhode Island and Wyoming:

·In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott included $60 million in his budget recommendations to help cancer centers meet requirements of becoming National Cancer Institute designated facilities;

·Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal proposed $44.7 million in his FY15 budget to establish a Science Learning center on the University of Georgia’s South Campus providing state-of-the-art facilities aimed at expanding the pipeline for students in the STEM disciplines;

·Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee proposed a $125 million general obligation bond to be placed on the November ballot for funding the first phase of renovation and building additions to the existing College of Engineering complex at the University of Rhode Island; and,

·Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead outlined a two-year, $3.3 billion spending plan that includes $10.5 million for equipment and research at the University of Wyoming’s High Bay research facility. Another $8 million would support planning and design for the multi-year effort to transform the College of Engineering and Applied Science into a top echelon engineering school with “Tier 1” status.  

Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Rhode Island, Wyomingstem, higher ed, workforce, manufacturing, state budget