Fenves announces new housing initiatives, graduate student funding at State of the University address

President Fenves stands at a podium.

UT President Gregory Fenves announced plans to have enough housing for all undergraduate freshmen in the State of the University address on Wednesday. He also announced initiatives for graduate students such as a $10 million one-time allocation for tuition.

Fenves said there are currently only 7,400 spaces in University housing for 50,000 students, which has become a problem in Austin’s current housing market.

The University will work with a consulting firm to conduct a study on the current state of UT student housing and use their recommendations to inform future plans, Fenves said.

“That’s a barrier to success. And, as a university with a history of denying equitable access to qualified students, it’s our responsibility … to create opportunities for students of all backgrounds,” Fenves said.

To address these needs, Fenves said in the fall of 2020, the apartment building 2400 Nueces will be available as a University housing option, which adds about 700 spaces. Fenves said the University recently purchased the building.

Fenves said the University plans to eventually demolish and replace the Creekside Residence Hall, which was built in 1955. The new building will provide an estimated 700 to 900 new spaces. The University is also planning to begin a project for graduate student housing on the east side of campus.

“It’s clear that we need to take action to make University housing more widely available,” Fenves said.

The University approved a $10 million one-time allocation for tuition and support for graduate students during this year, Fenves said.

“This is just a first step, and I’m looking forward to receiving additional recommendations from the task force in December,” Fenves said.

Additionally, as part of the Texas Advancement Commitment, the University established the Texas Challenge, a $50 million matching gift program and a fundraising campaign. Funding from alumni will go directly to student scholarships, which will help reduce costs for students with financial need, Fenves said.

“The Texas Advanced Commitment is an investment in the future of our students,” Fenves said.

The College of Liberal Arts will introduce a new graduate fellowship program, the Clyde Rabb Littlefield Distinguished Graduate Fellows Endowment. It will be used to recruit graduate students, and the inaugural class will be named in 2020, Fenves said.

In preparation for its 150th anniversary in 2033, the University formed the Council for TEXAS Impact to brainstorm ideas about the future of the University. It includes more than 20 members of the faculty, three students and two staff representatives, Fenves said. The council will research and recommend priorities on future opportunities for the University. The council will garner ideas from the community through forums and will present its conclusions in fall 2020, according to its website.

“Now is the time for us to start considering what we want this University to be known for at that milestone,” Fenves said. “Now is the time to think big.”

Simran Ali, management and public health senior, said after attending her first State of the University address, she is pleased that the speech addressed important topics, such as innovation and housing.

“I’ve never been to one before, but it was actually a really great way for students and everyone to understand what’s going on at the University and how the University is impacting the city and the nation as a whole,” Ali said.

Originally published on September 19, 2019

By Areeba Aber
Photo by Eddie Gaspar

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