The Board of Regents of the 14-campus University of Texas System will dive into a range of topics at a two-day meeting this week, from a discussion about the public value of a university system to a recommendation from its staff to boost the payout from a higher education endowment to just more than $1 billion, a record.
The endowment, known as the Permanent University Fund, consists of stocks, bonds, other securities and revenue from UT System-owned oil lands in West Texas. The fund, managed by the nonprofit University of Texas/Texas A&M Investment Management Co., known as UTIMCO, is valued at $17.8 billion, according to the regents’ agenda book.
The regents are expected to approve a payout of 5.7 percent, or $1,014,000,000, for the 2019 budget year, which begins Sept. 1. The previous record was the 2018 payout, $887.3 million. The Texas Constitution limits the payout to 7 percent of the fund and specifies that the UT System receives two-thirds of it for new buildings and other initiatives while the Texas A&M University System receives one-third.
“The continuing outstanding investment performance of UTIMCO and the revenues from the booming Permian Basin are allowing the board to consider a larger distribution to address more facilities needs at 14 UT institutions and 13 Texas A&M institutions and agencies,” said Karen Adler, a spokeswoman for the UT System.
The regents are also planning to discuss spending $13.5 million for wells, piping and other infrastructure to safeguard UT-Austin’s McDonald Observatory in West Texas from wildfires like the one that came close to it in 2011.
Some of the items on the regents’ agenda are the sort they might discuss at a retreat, although this meeting is not billed as such. They will be gathering in their usual venue, the second-floor board room at the system’s headquarters on Seventh Street in downtown Austin. In recent years, the regents have sometimes decamped to a suburban hotel for a retreat.
Thursday’s session will have some flavor of a retreat when several presidents of academic and health campuses discuss the benefits of robust university research, the role of regional schools in fostering economic development and the priorities for future medical and health care research.
And Friday, Larry Faulkner, a former UT-Austin president who is serving as interim chancellor, will lead a discussion about how the system’s campuses can enhance the public good, including by preparing Texans for full participation in the knowledge economy and by curing and reducing the incidence of chronic diseases in the state.
Also on the regents’ agenda:
• Leasing space in the UT System’s building to the U.S. Army for its Futures Command, which is charged with leading a modernization of military technologies and building partnerships with innovators in academia and industry.
• Authorizing UT-Austin to lease 266 acres south of Dripping Springs in Hays County from the nonprofit University of Texas Foundation for research and educational efforts involving the Jackson School of Geosciences, with a total cost over 100 years of $6.4 million.
• Discussing plans to reorganize the system administration and to sell about 300 acres acquired for a now-scuttled data science center in Houston.
• Approving a south end zone expansion project at Royal-Memorial Stadium that is scheduled to cost $175 million.