By Daniel Bendtsen
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming has requested the Legislature appropriate $31.3 million more in biennial funding for the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years.
The bulk of that, $28 million, is being requested to boost the university’s standard operations.
UW leaders have also asked for the budget of the School of Energy Resources, which funded separately from the university’s block grant, to be increased by $1.3 million.
That additional funding for SER would go to paying for an academic director, who’s charged with “reinvigorating enrollment to work with academic department to ensure continued delivery of required course, and to coordinate the efforts of SER Faculty in their contributions to SER’s mission,” according to the funding request approved by the UW Board of Trustees in July.
SER Director Mark Northam said in May the school’s enrollment has dwindled as young Wyomingites are now “not nearly as excited” about oil and gas jobs as previous generations were.
In the 2020 fiscal year, SER has also added the Energy Policy Analysis Program, which has a mission of developing “pragmatic and effective energy solutions for Wyoming policymakers.”
“The program will be high transdisciplinary, and will require additional funding to support faculty and graduate student involvement, to purchase data and modeling software, and to support travel,” the funding request states.
UW is also requesting $2 million more in ongoing funds to pay for a blockchain certificate program, a “fintech” certificate program and teaching introductory courses on blockchain technology.
• One-time funding
In addition to the $31.3 million in ongoing funding, UW is also asking the Legislature to appropriate $16.9 million one time that’s not expected to be continued after the upcoming biennium.
Of that, $2 million is being requested to pay for graduate assistantships in energy science.
UW Provost Kate Miller asked during May’s budget hearings for the university’s trustees to make that request to continue a program whose funding has dried up.
“The program’s come to an end, and we think it’s important for the Legislature to consider that we renew those, at least for the next biennium, and then we might move in the following biennium to a proposal that’s broader, and addresses the challenges,” Miller said at the time. “Losing a million dollars in graduate stipends will almost certainly hurt the research engine on campus. Our graduate assistant budget has been hit quite a bit in the last two years. Losing another million would be a big hit.”
In the current biennium, more than 50% of graduate assistants in energy science have been Wyoming residents or UW alumni, conducting work that “has had a direct, positive impact on Wyoming.”
UW is also requesting $1 million in one-time funding “for the purpose of raising the stature of the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences toward Tier 1 status.”
The university’s engineering initiative was one that members of the Joint Appropriations Committee had been particularly interested in funding.
Even though UW hadn’t requested any more funding for engineering in the 2019 supplemental budget session, JAC Chairman Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, was able to convince his colleagues to add another $2 million for the program to coincide the opening of the new Engineering and Education Research Building.
The university is also requesting $5 million in one-time funding for “potential property acquisitions” north of Lewis Street.
According to Albany County data, there are three properties UW doesn’t yet own on a block north of Lewis Street where university leaders would like to build a new dormitory.
One of those landowners has said he’ll never sell his property to the university.
UW hasn’t yet said whether they’ll pursue eminent domain to acquire those properties.
Additionally, $100,000 is also being requested to allow “the Athletics Department to continue serving the rodeo team with strength and conditioning training” and “continue providing for graduate assistants to supervise and coach the students.”
• Matching funds
In addition to $16.9 million in those one-time funding requests, UW is also for $43.8 million in one-time funding that would be matched by private donations and grants.
UW is requesting $10 million in funding to match $10 million in private donations that would create permanent endowments to support faculty in the College of Agriculture, College of Engineering and the university’s Science Initiative program.
UW is also asking the Legislature to match $2.5 million of private donations to create a $5 million permanent endowment “to support the (College of Law’s) clinical and experiential learning program which will be housed in the new Simpson Center.”
Another $3 million is being requested to match $9 million in private donations that are being received to create a permanent endowment for the Trustees’ Education Initiative, an effort that’s reforming the College of Education’s programming.
UW is also asking for $5 million to match already secured and expected grant funding for the Center of Innovation for Flow through Porous Media, an institution housed at the High Bay Research Facility that’s focused on research in technology of oil and gas recovery.
Some of that requested funding would match a $7 million grant commitment from the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.
Another $1.4 million is requested to match a $2.9 million grant from Halliburton, with another $750,000-$1 million being requested to match an Encana grant.
UW has also applied for an $8 million grant from the Department of Energy, which would require $2 million in matching funds for the upcoming biennium.
If the center is granted, as expected, with a $2.5 million grant from Alchemy Sciences, that grant would require another $500,000 in matching funds for the upcoming biennium.
• Carbon engineering
The biggest single program that’s having funds requested for it is SER’s work on carbon engineering.
UW has requested $8.8 million for that program, including $1.7 million to demonstrate “the performance of a coal-derived asphalt paving material on a suitable road location.”
“Field testing will be conducted with the support and collaboration of a large commercial road paving applicator,” according to the funding request.
Another $1.2 million is being requested for “batch commercial manufacture of a developed dry methane reforming catalyst for converting CO2 in the presence of natural gas into valuable petrochemical products.”
Another $1.8 million in funding for carbon engineering is being requested to “undertake pilot plant testing of UW-patented thermo-chemical processing of coal to establish the parametric engineering databook in preparation for undertaking a prefeasibility engineering study.”
Another $1.2 million is requested for “pre-commercial manufacture of construction materials derived from Wyoming (Power River Basin) coal and construction of a full-size building for demonstration purpose.”
UW also wants $1.1 million for “pre-commercial manufacture and testing of carbon fiber and related material derived from Wyoming (Power River Basin) coal in automotive application light-weight composite materials and for use in electrical energy storage products with commercial entities.
Another $1.1 million has been requested for the “conduct of agricultural field trials of a coal-based soil amendment product augmented with Wyoming-sourced nutrient material.” Field testing of that soil amendment is planned to be conducted in collaboration with the Wyoming Sugar Beet Association and private farmers.
Finally, $700,000 is being requested to “scale-up manufacture and field testing of polymeric and coating materials derived from Wyoming (Power River Basin) coal, in concert with a commercial chemical supply company.