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Archive for Monday, December 6, 2010

Funding for KU engineering building secured

December 6, 2010

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As dirt begins to move on a new building for Kansas University’s engineering school, Engineering Dean Stuart Bell is already looking beyond the building’s completion to the next needs of the school.

KU secured $12.3 million in federal stimulus funding for what’s for now being called the Measurement, Materials and Sustainable Environment Center next to KU’s Learned and Spahr halls.

University officials are funding the rest of the $21.5 million project with private donations. As with most buildings, private naming options are available, Bell said.

Bell said he anticipated it would take about 18 months to complete the 40,000-square-foot building, which will house mostly laboratory and research space. That would place the construction on schedule — weather permitting — within three months or so, Bell said.

He said that with the federal funding came a lot of paperwork, too, that caused some delays and restrictions on what the space could be used for.

It’s primarily labs, so there won’t be any classrooms to help address an ongoing work force shortage of engineers, Bell said.

So he said the school would be looking for state support to help finance a second, larger, phase of the ongoing construction.

The Kansas Board of Regents has proposed a higher-education plan that calls for $5 million annually in state funding to be split between KU, Kansas State and Wichita State’s engineering programs to address the state’s engineering shortage.

In KU’s case, the funds would be used to support the new phase of construction, said Kathy Damron, KU’s director of state relations, and the money allotted would ratchet up over time.

But while nearly everyone recognizes the work force needs, finding funding options for the plan has been difficult in the current economic climate, Damron said.

“The time has just not been right for anyone to roll up their sleeves and make a firm commitment to it,” she said.

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