This post was originally published on Defender Network

Texas Southern University (TSU) requests nearly a billion dollars from state lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session.

Bi-annually, Texas public colleges and universities submit a Legislative Appropriations Request to the governor’s office and Legislative Budget Board before the session begins to outline their funding requests.

According to the Legislative Budget Board, Texas lawmakers are faced with an overflowing $33 billion budget surplus and will be weighing in on how best to use the money. Typically, schools ask for “exceptional items” or special initiatives beyond what is stated in the baseline funding.

In this case, TSU requests the funds to expand its academic, research and health and safety initiatives.

What’s the ask?

For this year’s session, TSU is asking the Legislature for $414.6 million for its academic centers of excellence, $163.6 million for the Research Amplification Fund, $153.5 million for the College of Transdisciplinary Studies, $77.7 million for its academic and student resource initiative, $26.6 million for its Mental Health Institute and $146.2 million for the Campus Health and Safety Program.

Here is the breakdown of what TSU is asking for:

Academic Centers of Excellence

The funds will address the shortage of workers in critical industries and occupations such as aviation, pharmaceutical and biomedical via consortiums, collaboratives and academies.

Research Amplification Fund

TSU is one of 11 HBCUs with the coveted R2 status. Currently, no HBCUs in the nation hold the R1 status. TSU wants to maintain its current status while working toward R1 by elevating its ground-breaking research to provide data-driven solutions for society’s major challenges.

College of Transdisciplinary Studies

With the launch of the state’s first College of Transdisciplinary Studies, the program will help working professionals interested in reskilling and upskilling finish an uncompleted degree quicker and flexibly. They offer eight undergraduate and four master’s programs and garnered 3,000 inquiries in the first 12 weeks of the program announcement.

Academic and Student Resource Initiative

To improve student resources and retain its top faculty and staff, the funding will accommodate the growth in student population and resources for tenure-track faculty to deliver state-of-the-art instruction.

Mental Health Institute

The formation of TSU’s Mental Health Institute will address the shortage of workers in critical mental health industries and occupations. The institute will provide evidence-based services and programs to combat the statewide rise in mental illness and other issues that impact African-American students.

Campus Health and Safety Program

In 2022, TSU and more than 50 HBCUs received bomb threats across the country. The comprehensive health and safety program will increase campus-wide community policing, facility enhancements and highly visible safety resources for defense against threats and acts of violence.

Why should they receive the funds?

Texas Southern University is one of the nation’s largest HBCUs with significant success in preparing underrepresented students for professional careers. It continues to serve as a gateway to developing a Black middle class in Houston.

“We serve as the premier producer of diverse talent for the Texas economy in our workforce. We remain focused on ensuring student success and, most importantly, fulfilling our mission of transforming the lives of Texans who’ve been traditionally underserved through strategic and intentional efforts,” said Texas Southern University President Dr. Lesia L. Crumpton-Young. “This is the time for a bold investment to significantly expand these programs so that we can serve more students and we can meet the workforce needs in this state.”

Dr. Crumpton-Young shared a few examples of the school’s track record of success:

-The Aviation and Technology Program has grown by 135%, and boasts a first-time pass rate for students taking the FAA certification exam of 95%.

-The College of Liberal Arts and Behavioral Science increased enrollment by 72% and produced many of the nation’s mental and behavioral health professionals.

-TSU produces 30% of all lawyers of color in the state.-More than 27% of all minority pharmacists in the United States graduated from Texas Southern University.

“An additional investment in TSU will produce significant returns for the state and contribute to the state being the economic engine of North America,” said Crumpton-Young. “For example, if you look at every dollar TSU has received in research funding from the state of Texas, our institution has produced a return of $33.76 for every $1 the state has invested in us… This is truly a once in a generation (opportunity) for this committee and for Texas.”