Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Support Proposition 4, Support UT-Dallas

HB51 Signing

Proposition 4 (HJR 14-2)

"The constitutional amendment establishing the national research university fund to enable emerging research universities in this state to achieve national prominence as major research universities and transferring the balance of the higher education fund to the national research university fund."

In case you hadn't noticed, the University of Texas at Dallas (UT-D) is competing with six other state universities to attain the coveted rank of Tier One research university. They are UT-Arlington, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech University, the University of Houston, UT-San Antonio, and UT-El Paso.

Thanks to House Bill 51, passed in the last legislative session, state funds will be made available to these emerging research universities to match donations received for research purposes. And if Texas voters approve Proposition 4 in the November election, a $425 million National Research University Fund (NRUF) will be created to help these schools achieve Tier One status.

What's a Tier One university and who decides which universities qualify? There's no consensus definition and there's no single body that rates universities. The criteria in HB 51 are research expenditures, recognition for that research, endowment assets, number of doctorates awarded, quality of faculty, quality of freshman class, and excellence of graduate education. Precise definitions of these criteria do not exist yet.

There are other bodies that rank universities nationally. The Carnegie Foundation, the Association of American Universities, and the Center for Measuring University Performance (CMUP) are three. CMUP, for example, ranks universities on nine different measures: total research, federal research, endowment assets, annual giving, National Academy members, faculty awards, doctorates granted, postdoctoral appointees, and SAT/ACT range. By those measures, UT-Austin, Texas A&M and Rice University are among the 54 institutions (28 private, 26 public) that rank in the top 25 nationally on at least one of the nine measures.

To give some idea of how far the emerging research universities in Texas have to go, none rank in the top fifty nationally in any of the nine criteria. Only three rank in the top hundred in even one criterion. Texas Tech and the University of Houston rank in the top 200 in eight criteria, UT-D in seven, the University of North Texas in five and UT-Arlington in three.

Why you should care if UT-D achieves Tier One status? Tier One universities can be an economic force for their region, attracting federal research dollars, venture capital, and the kind of students and faculty that create businesses and jobs. If you live or work in Richardson, it's to your benefit to support UT-D, to encourage the State of Texas to support UT-D, and to vote for Proposition 4 in November. Richardson's own economic prosperity will benefit from it.

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