AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In this election, Texans will vote on a proposition to enhance funding of select higher education institutions to elevate them to leading research universities.
Texas Proposition 5, stemming from H.J.R 3, is a proposed constitutional amendment seeking authorization for the creation of this new endowment, called the Texas University Fund. The TUF aims to address the challenges posed by Texas’ increasing population that has put pressure on the state’s infrastructure and public resources. The goal of the fund would be to empower universities to create “research-driven solutions” regarding this issue.
University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have stood as Texas’s top two public research institutions for years, drawing prestige from a $32 billion endowment that supports faculty recruitment, research funding, and infrastructure development. It’s why lawmakers are hoping voters approve an alternative funding mechanism to boost the state’s other public universities that seek to join the ranks of UT and A&M in becoming top-ranked institutions in the nation.
Jason Smith, vice president of governmental affairs at the University of Houston System, predicts UH would climb to a top 50 ranked school within the coming years if the funding gets approved.
“Without TUF, that goal might be out of question or take a lot longer,” he said.
Smith says the endowment would make UH more competitive with Texas’ top two universities and give them more access to federal grants. He guesses UH would hire about 150 new research faculty, construct new research facilities they need to do research and invest in faculty startups with the TUF money.
“Because we dont have specific funds directed toward research, we’ve been using institutional funds to piecemeal those things together. Those dollars would normally go toward student success,” Smith said. “The result of this is we’ll be able to invest more heavily in making sure our students are successful and graduating in four years and having a great experience on campus.”
Aside from University of Houston, Texas Tech, Texas State University and University of North Texas would be eligible for TUF funding.
State lawmakers have allocated a one-time sum of $3 billion from the Texas’ budget surplus this biennium for the fund. An additional $900 million will be infused from the National Research University Fund, established over a decade ago to finance research universities.
Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, helped spearhead this effort during the regular legislative session.
“If we want to be prepared for the next decade and next century of challenges and keep Texas economy growing, this is a great investment,” he said. “It does not raise anybody’s taxes, period, the end.”
If voters approve the measure, Texas will additionally contribute $100 million annually, coming from interest on the state’s rainy day fund.