A Difficult Legislative Session on the Horizon
Earlier this month I was in Houston with Texas A&M President Bowen Loftin to meet with legislators, alumni, and the editorial board of The Houston Chronicle. As many of you know, Texas is facing a large budget shortfall. President Loftin and I are traveling to several key cities in the state to build awareness of the importance of state support for UT Austin and Texas A&M–the only public Tier 1 universities in Texas.
Our message is simple.
In the budget cut earlier this year, higher education in Texas was treated disproportionately compared to other state agencies. Higher education represents only 12.5% of the state budget, but it bore 41% of the budget reductions. We want to do our share, but continuing with disproportionate reductions will erode our state’s universities.
The Research University Development Fund (previously called the Competitive Knowledge Fund) rewards research universities by providing $1 of state support for every $10 earned in external research grants. Our research enterprise provides much needed economic stimulus to the Texas economy. UT and Texas A&M attracted more than $1.3 billion in external research grants to Texas in 2009-10. That’s 62% of all externally funded research at public universities in Texas. The Research University Development Fund is an effective way to support comprehensive research universities in the state.
UT and Texas A&M educate more than 100,000 students every year, that is nearly one of every five public university students in Texas. And our two universities have the lowest administrative costs in Texas—about half the state average.
Finally, UT and Texas A&M each have key building projects. At UT, our highest priority is a new building for our highly ranked engineering program, which would greatly benefit from Tuition Revenue Bond support.
I believe that higher education is an investment in our state’s future. In the months ahead, President Loftin and I will continue our efforts to communicate the crucial importance of preserving the competitiveness of our state’s national research universities. I hope the alumni and friends of both our universities will support us in this endeavor.