Here’s some genuine good news from Sunday night’s chaos.
Legislation intended to lift some of the state’s public universities to top-tier status has passed the House and Senate and now goes to Gov. Rick Perry, who is expected to sign it.
The measure, House Bill 51, also includes authorization for a $150 million bond issue for the hurricane-damaged University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, part of a $1.3 billion package of funding for that campus, and $5 million for Texas A&M University-Galveston.
Seven so-called emerging research universities would compete for extra funding in hopes of joining the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University as nationally recognized research institutions. Rice University, which is private, is also a top-tier school.
The 2010-11 budget approved by the Legislature includes $50 million for the emerging universities in addition to their normal appropriations. The $50 million would be parceled out based on which schools raise the most money from private donations for enhancing research and recruiting faculty members.
Officials of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board say it could take 20 years and considerably more funding for even one of the seven emerging institutions — UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso, the University of North Texas, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University — to rise into the big leagues
Still, lawmakers and higher education leaders said passage of the legislation represents a commitment that, in time, should lead to the development of more high-demand universities, reducing pressure on UT-Austin under the state’s automatic-admission law.
“This is one of those real privileges to carry this legislation,” said Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas.
That is good news. You may recall a report from the Legislative Study Group, which I blogged about a year ago, that highlighted the need for more Tier I schools. I think this represents a major step forward, and I’m glad to see it got done. Kudos to all for that. Statements about HB51 from Reps. Ellen Cohen and Garnet Coleman are beneath the fold.
Statement from Rep. Ellen Cohen:
State Representative Ellen Cohen issued the following statement regarding the passage of House Bill 51 and House Joint Resolution 14 helping establish more Tier One universities in Texas:
“The passage of these two bills makes me very grateful for the leadership of the House. Higher Education Chairman Dan Branch and Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Craig Eiland worked together for two important goals in these bills.
“First, establishing a system for emerging research universities, especially the University of Houston, to achieve Tier One research status is crucial for the future of Texas. By both providing resources and fostering competition among institutions, the frame work in House Bill 51 provides a historic step in higher education funding. I thank Chairman Branch and members of our committee in supporting our emerging research universities. As the only representative on Higher Education from Houston, I look forward to campaigning for the constitutional amendment this fall, where Houston will again play a big role.
“Secondly, the $150 million in tuition revenue bonds for the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston will greatly contribute to restoring one of our states best educational and medical resources. UTMB and its Level 1 Trauma Center will help the strained emergency room resources of Ben Taub and Memorial Herman. I was very proud to work with Chairman Eiland on both the supplemental appropriations bill and this tuition revenue bond package that show the State of Texas’ commitment to rebuilding UTMB.”
Cohen is a member of the Higher Education Committee and of the Appropriations Committee Subcommittee on Hurricane Ike. Rebuilding UTMB and establishing more Tier One universities were top priorities for her this session. Cohen was a member of the Conference Committee on House Bill 51 as well as a Joint Author.
Statement from Rep. Garnet Coleman:
It is a pleasure to inform you that HB 51 (Branch/Coleman) was sent to the Governor’s desk. This bill will let the University of Houston, along with six other universities, compete for a new pool of state funds if they can attract major research grants, major endowment gifts, and top research faculty and staff. The development of more top tier universities will open up seats of excellence available for Texas students, and will make our state more nationally and globally competitive.
On a personal note, our son Garnet Austin Coleman graduated today from Bellaire High School and will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall. Our daughter, Evan Coleman, will start high school in the fall.