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Weber State University historians and political scientists are cheering a $5 million outside donation to upgrade their on-campus home, and hope it will prod state lawmakers toward approving a larger $30 million renovation.

The school on Monday announced the gift from longtime donor John Lindquist, who operates mortuaries.

The timing is not a coincidence. Leaders of Utah's eight public colleges and universities are at the state Capitol this week, asking for bigger budgets to address crumbling buildings, rising tuition, and the need for new, high-tech degrees.

They face multiple hurdles. Lawmakers in recent years have bristled at the rising cost of buildings, saying the money may be better spent on online programs. Humanities and the arts largely have receded from focus as the Legislature approves new science and entrepreneurship centers.

In the nearly 45-year-old Weber building that is home to about 2,000 social science majors, both students and professors complain of rusty water, cramped hallways and a lack of laboratories. The classrooms for psychology, neuroscience and other programs, the school contends, need $3.5 million in repairs.

The current space "reflects the priorities and learning models of the past," added Frank Harrold, dean of the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. It's a detriment to forensics students, said criminal-justice professor Brent Horn, who can't do experiments and other assignments in the building because it doesn't have lab space.

Harrold's concern echoes the dismay of University of Utah professors housed in the outdated humanities hub Orson Spencer Hall. Utah lawmakers last year approved a $45 million overhaul that now is in the design stage.

WSU President Charles A. Wight said in a statement that the gift "enables us to continue to provide an outstanding learning environment for our students and a reverberating impact throughout our community." Refurbishing the existing building will keep it running for at least another 50 years, the school said in a statement.

It's not certain the Legislature will approve the construction.

The Utah State Building Board has slotted the project as its No. 3 priority, behind a $42 million Salt Lake Community College technical career center and a planned Utah Valley University performing arts center. The $30 million UVU request is awaiting on approval for a second year as administrators lament that the Steinway piano is being stored next to a body shop.

Lindquist, a 1971 graduate of the California College of Mortuary Science, received an honorary doctorate from Weber State last year.

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