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Saturday, December 2, 2023


UH hunts for research funds

State legislators have turned their attention to the state’s candidates for flagship status as the window for universities to file for the status closed March 13.

Universities are proposing bills to the Legislature designed to attain the funding necessary to reach flagship status.

Board of Regents chairman Welcome Wilson said UH will look to assistance from the Texas legislature if it is to fulfill its flagship aspirations.

‘We would like for the legislature to provide a pathway by which universities aspiring to tier one status can achieve that goal,’ Wilson said.

UH is one of seven schools that are designated emerging research universities, and UH meets two out of three criteria given by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for flagship status. ‘

The unmet criteria are annual research expenditures of $150 million or more. UH currently spends about $75 million each year on research.

‘We’re not asking the state for the $75 million,’ Wilson said.’ ‘We’re asking the state to give us smaller sums to let us hire clusters of researchers and build laboratories to bring in the rest of the money.’

Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo), Sen. Robert Duncan (R-Lubbock), Sen. Florence Shapiro (R-Plano) and Rep. Dan Branch (R-Dallas) have written bills regarding emerging research universities funding.

Zaffirini’s bill proposes a Texas Center for Performance Excellence Fund from which money is allocated to universities based on a points system. ‘

The bill requires a change to Competitive Knowledge Fund, which awards $1 million to universities for every to $10 million attained through private grants. The fund is restricted to The University of Texas, Texas A&M, UH and Texas Tech University according to an overview of research funding by the Texas Higher Education Board.’

If passed, Zaffirini’s bill would make public universities with two-year average research funds of less than $50 million eligible to receive $500,000 for every $10 million received through private grants.

Universities with average research funds between $50 million and $150 million would receive $1 million for every $10 million, and those with average funds greater than $150 million would receive $1.5 million for every $10 million in private grants.

The bill would also create the Texas Research Incentive Program to annually match 50, 75 and 100 percent of private endowments and gifts for universities receiving between $100,000 and $999,999, between $1 million and $2 million and more than $2 million in private donations, respectively.

The TRIP funds are meant to improve research productivity and faculty recruitment.

‘We need flexible funds that will allow the University of Houston to make expenditures that allow us to achieve Tier One status,’ Wilson said.

Duncan and Shapiro have co-authored a bill that would establish a national research university fund, administered biennially by the comptroller, specifically for the purpose of providing Texas’ seven emerging research universities with the capital to expand their research projects.

Branch has proposed a Research University Development Program that allows the state to match in full any grant or private gift given to a university.’ Every two years the Legislative Budget Board would decide which grants to match based on a university’s commitment to research programs, total amount of money spent on research and the estimated impact the state money would have on a program.

The Greater Houston Partnership, a local business and public policy advocacy group, announced that UH’s Tier 1 initiative is their top legislative priority this session, Wilson said.

He said that the Houston delegation of nearly 40 congressmen is behind these legislative efforts.

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