Victory Declared in Efforts to Secure Pathway for UH to Attain Top-Tier Status

In what University of Houston officials are calling the "best legislative session in UH history," two historic bills creating a pathway for all emerging research universities to compete and secure sustained funding for more Tier-One universities in Texas have cleared the House and Senate.

"We could not have asked for a more supportive delegation and certainly could not have found a stronger state and local agenda in favor of the University of Houston," said UH President Renu Khator. "The decade-long trek to a legislative pathway to Tier One has been achieved."

The Texas Legislature late Sunday approved two bills - the constitutional amendment that creates the fund needed to finance Tier-One research by UH and all the state's emerging research universities, and the enabling legislation that provides a pathway to compete for those funds.

The enabling legislation still awaits Gov. Rick Perry's signature before it becomes law. The constitutional amendment will be put to a state-wide vote in November 2009.

Khator expressed her commitment to helping UH achieve Tier-One status when she was confirmed in November 2007 as president of the University of Houston and chancellor of the UH System, a pledge she has made repeatedly throughout her administration. She demonstrated her determination to achieve that goal by making more than 30 visits to Austin during the legislative session and engaged broad support from economic development organizations, business and civic groups and UH students and alumni. UH now will focus on building upon this new constitutional and legislative foundation, she said.

"We will still need to ensure the successful passage of the constitutional amendment in November," Khator said. "But the efforts of our delegation, members of the UH System Board of Regents, our faculty, staff, students and alumni, and the community support we've received from Greater Houston Partnership and countless others throughout the Greater Houston Region, have been nothing short of remarkable."

Welcome Wilson Sr., chairman of the UH System Board of Regents, expressed gratitude for the support, time, effort and attention that led to the historic approval of the bill.

"Elevating the University of Houston to Tier-One status will reap economic and educational benefits for Houston and the region for generations to come," he said. "Confronted by a potentially crippling economic downturn and a corresponding decline in revenue, our legislative delegation worked tirelessly to secure funding for this important initiative. This could produce immense rewards, not only for the university and the community, but for the state of Texas, as well."

The $50 million Texas Research Incentive Program would match the gifts and scholarships that private donors bestow on each school. And the $425 million National Research University Fund (money that would be moved from a dormant program) would reward the schools for reaching big goals, four of which have already been specified: awarding 200 doctoral degrees over a two-year period; maintaining an endowment of at least $400 million; membership in the Association of Research Libraries or a campus chapter of Phi Beta Kappa; and annual expenditure of at least $45 million in restricted research funding.

Campuses seeking the money to possibly become Tier-One universities include UH, the University of Texas at Dallas, UT-Arlington, the University of North Texas, Texas Tech, UT-San Antonio and UT-El Paso.

Through greater financial support from the state, UH will be able to enhance the quality of student education, attract and retain more high-quality faculty, use state appropriations as leverage for greater federal research support, increase technology transfer to the private sector, attract new companies and industries to the Houston area and produce spin-off companies.

Further strengthening its position, UH is located in Texas' largest metropolis, which accounts for 25 percent of the state's population and 32 percent of its economy. UH is close to the Texas Medical Center and its giant research engines, and it has longstanding research partnerships with these institutions, as well as the nearby Johnson Space Center.

While no precise definition exists for Tier-One universities, they are generally known as high-performing research universities. They typically are members of the prestigious American Association of Universities, have at least $100 million in federal research grants per year, selective admission policies and high-achieving students. Other factors include the amount of endowment funding, the number of doctorates awarded and the quality of the faculty.

Texas has two public Tier-One schools - Texas A&M and the University of Texas at Austin. Rice University, a small, private school, also is considered a Tier-One school. In comparison, California has nine such institutions and New York has seven.

The lack of additional elite universities in Texas creates enrollment pressures at UT and A&M and causes a net loss each year of 6,000 high-achieving Texas high school graduates who leave for a Tier-One university in another state.

It is important for Texas to develop more Tier-One universities, particularly in major population areas such as Houston. Based on its population, Texas is estimated to lose $3.7 billion a year in federal research funds and venture capital largely because it has too few Tier-One universities.

About the University of Houston The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities.  UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.


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