Texas bill aims to allow more universities to qualify to receive money from the National Research University Fund

Joshua Fechter

A state Senate bill, which aims to alter the amount of funds distributed through a state program intended to establish the next major national research university in Texas, would not immediately affect the four UT System schools designated as emerging research institutions.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, aims to allow more Texas universities that qualify as emerging research institutions to also qualify as recipients of the National Research University Fund. The state-created fund aims to support emerging research universities to help them gain national recognition with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, determining which universities qualify.

Earlier this year, Texas State University joined seven other institutions that qualify as emerging research universities: UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso, UT-San Antonio, Texas Tech University, University of Houston and University of North Texas. If the bill passes, Texas State will be included in the list of universities that may receive money from the fund if it spends $45 million on research and also meet other criteria.

The bill would amend the Texas Education Code to allow any emerging research university to receive funds if it meets additional criteria, instead of limiting the fund to the seven institutions considered for the fund when it was created.

Of the emerging research institutions, Texas Tech University and University of Houston are the only two that meet standards set by the Texas Legislature that allow them to receive funds. The National Research University Fund was valued at $587 million as of December 2011, and up to 7 percent of the total value may be divided equally between universities included for consideration in the fund and distributed annually to those that qualify.

UT-Arlington, UT-Dallas, UT-El Paso and UT-San Antonio do not meet the criteria necessary to qualify for the fund, according to the coordinating board’s February report regarding eligibility for the fund.

Joe Izbrand, UTSA chief communications officer, said the university currently has $38 million of the $45 million in research funds and is working to meet the coordinating board’s criteria.

“While UTSA is very well-positioned on a number of those criteria, including institutional recognition and number of graduate programs, we are still on the road to meeting all the criteria necessary,” Izbrand said.

Printed on Friday, December 6, 2012 as: Bill offers more research funding