Dear Faculty and Staff,
The 88th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature concluded earlier this week and we are now in the “bill signing phase” in which Governor Greg Abbott can sign, veto, or allow to become law the legislation that has passed during the session. I am writing to you now to provide an update on the major higher education related legislation passed during this session.
As you may recall, prior to the legislative session, Chancellors from the five Texas university systems (University of Houston System, Texas A&M University System, Texas State University System, University of North Texas System, and University of Texas System), including Chancellor Renu Khator, wrote a letter to the legislature proposing that they invest heavily in what was termed an “Affordability Plan.” It would freeze tuition for our students over the next two school years if the legislature were to invest heavily into formula funding, covering costs of the Hazlewood exemption, Higher Education Group Insurance, and fully funding the Comprehensive Regional University Fund (CRU). The proposal asked for approximately $1 billion in state dollars towards this investment.
Unfortunately, the state only partially funded this proposal at approximately $700 million statewide but still requires all state-funded universities to freeze undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees. Given that our four universities also experienced either limited or negative enrollment growth over the past two years, our universities also received a limited portion of the increases in formula funding.
Texas University Fund (TUF)
To support the University of Houston’s goal of achieving a ranking among the Top 50 public universities, we requested that the legislature create a new state-supported endowment of at least $1 billion to support that vision. As a result, the legislature has created the Texas University Fund (TUF) to support the University of Houston, Texas Tech University, Texas State University and University of North Texas, with an investment of approximately $3.9 billion into the fund.
At this time, the University of Houston’s share of the fund will be approximately $1.35 billion. The fund will continue to grow over time as the legislature has also proposed that up to $100 million be added to the fund every year from the state’s economic stabilization fund. Use of the funds will be limited to research-related expenditures.
The establishment of this fund is contingent upon the voters of the State of Texas approving it in a constitutional election to be held this November. Passage of this ballot initiative is not assured, and without more than 50% of the voter’s approval, the new fund will not be created.
We are extremely appreciative of the leadership of this state for their vision in seeing what the University of Houston can be with additional state support. We are especially grateful to Governor Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, the authors of the bills, Chairman Greg Bonnen and Chairwoman Joan Huffman, UH alumni, Senators John Whitmire and Carol Alvarado, Representatives Armando Walle and Dennis Paul, and others including Senator Borris Miles. Their efforts on our behalf will result in UH achieving its vision of becoming a Top 50 public university.
Senate Bill 17 – Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Bill
A compromise bill was agreed upon by the House and the Senate and is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. The bill prevents a state supported university from establishing or maintaining a DEI office or employing individuals who perform the duties of a DEI office as defined by the bill. In applying for grants or accreditation, the university can highlight its work to support first-generation, low-income, and/or under-served students. The bill specifically allows for exceptions, including academic research, coursework, and guest speakers.
The State Auditor is required to conduct periodic reviews of each university to ensure compliance with this legislation with severe penalties for non-compliance, including loss of state funds in subsequent budget cycles. The legislation will go into effect January 1, 2024.
You can view the final text of this legislation here:
Senate Bill 18 – Tenure
After the Texas House passed the legislation, the Texas Senate agreed to the House amendments and the bill is now awaiting the Governor’s signature. The bill does not prohibit the awarding of tenure, but instead codifies procedures similar to what currently exists for awarding tenure, post-tenure review and revocation of tenure within our System policies. This legislation will go into effect September 1, 2023.
You can view the final text of the legislation here:
JASON S. M. SMITH (’09), M.C.M.
Vice Chancellor/Vice President
Office of Government & Community Relations
University of Houston System • University of Houston