AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s budget proposal calls on the Texas legislature to establish new billion-dollar endowments for The University of Houston and Texas Tech University, aiming to earn more research recognitions and narrow the funding gap between Texas’ six public university systems and the two benefitting from the Permanent University Fund.
“I recommend the 88th Legislature create permanent endowments for the emerging research universities that do not currently have access to the Permanent University Fund, including $1 billion each for the University of Houston and Texas Tech University, as well as new resources for Texas State University and the University of North Texas,” Abbott wrote in his budget proposal.
The governor first campaigned on the idea last February in Lubbock, promising a new endowment for Texas Tech after Red Raiders elevated their criticism of the University of Texas’ dominance of the Permanent University Fund.
The PUF endows the UT and A&M Systems with nearly $31 billion generated on West Texas oil land and mineral rights. Other Texas universities have long sought a slice of that fund. That would require a constitutional amendment, however. The governor said the odds of that happening are zero last February.
“University of Houston graduates, I think they would like to see a slice of that permanent university fund. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about investing existing dollars that we have as a budget surplus,” UH’s Vice President for Government and Community Relations Jason Smith said. “This is something that will be transformative for not only the University of Houston, but for the state of Texas. Providing more opportunities for students across our state to go to school in Texas at a top university is critical.”
UH is concerned Texas is giving up top talent by losing a net of 20,000 students to out-of-state schools every year, according to its legislative agenda. Texas currently has only two public universities in the top 50 nationwide — UT and A&M. UH wants to be the third.
“Just as the Permanent University Fund (PUF) provides The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University with a stable and dependable source of funds to invest heavily in their research initiatives, UH is in need of its own state-supported endowment not wholly dependent on a positive state budget situation, limiting biennial appropriations by the Texas Legislature,” UH’s legislative agenda reads.
The governor also singled out Texas State University and the University of North Texas for “new resources,” but did not specify further.
“As an Emerging Research University, UNT has earned the highest ranking of any Carnegie Tier One institution in North Texas and our research portfolio continues to grow,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said. “We are deeply appreciative of Gov. Abbott and legislative leadership for acknowledging the elevated role that Texas universities like UNT will play in the coming decades to expand the state’s evolving economy and grow our workforce to meet employer demands.”
The governor’s budget is only a non-binding request. The legislature will decide how to act on it.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick included new funding for higher education in his top priorities, reserving Senate Bill 19 for the topic.