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University of Utah students will hang out, sleep and run their startups at a trendy new entrepreneur center next year, if all goes according to plan.

But it will take donations, grants or other funding sources to keep the lights running and make any repairs.

The U. will likely avoid billing the state for two reasons: First, because the university is building the $43 million Lassonde Institute with outside donations. Second, the Legislature doesn't consider the center a critical addition to campus, so lawmakers declined to foot any bills for upkeep down the road.

The latest statewide review of privately financed university buildings released Thursday says the protocol should apply to all donated campus buildings. But the current rules are muddy. And in recent years, some colleges and universities have asked the state to help to pay janitors at privately-donated museums or other buildings.

Higher education officials say public dollars should cover repair costs because the universities rely on the buildings to stick to their missions of research and learning. On the other hand, they acknowledge, arenas and other buildings that generate hefty profits should pay for their own upkeep.

"Far too often, institutions have had to find ways to cover the needs with existing budgets," state higher education commissioner David Buhler wrote in a formal response to the audit.

In recent years, the recession drained the maintenance funds, Buhler said, which in turn hiked student fees. And in 1998, state higher education officials updated their protocol, deciding classrooms or other spaces used for academic endeavors are eligible for state funds.

The Legislative Auditor's report comes three years after an initial review. In 2011, state auditors singled out 23 campus buildings across the state that didn't qualify for state operation and maintenance funds, but likely received them anyway. Inadequate record keeping has prevented anyone from determining whether the money was misappropriated.

Together, that batch of buildings could have consumed as much as $4.3 million a year out of a total higher education maintenance budget of $133 million.

Construction costs, legislators contend, only account for one-third of a building's cost. But current legislative policy bars schools from getting operations funding from the state for "auxiliary" buildings at the time they are approved. Often, universities need endowments to cover the costs.

The auditor's report says lawmakers should require schools to submit a detailed funding plan for a new private building before construction crews even begin preparing the plot. At the same time, the auditor's recommendation means the state would have to track exactly which campus buildings can get the money and where state maintenance dollars end up.