Texas Takes Step Toward More Tier One Universities

Governor Perry Signs Bill at UT Dallas Gathering with Legislative Leaders

June 17, 2009

Tier One bill signingSurrounded by leaders of Texas' Legislature and higher education system, Gov. Rick Perry signs a bill that seeks to establish more Tier One universities in the state.


     Governor’s Press Conference (30:43 minutes)

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     What is Tier One?

     President David E. Daniel:
     “Thoughts on Creating More Tier One Universities”

Gov. Rick Perry signed House Bill 51 – legislation aimed at creating more national research universities in Texas – on Wednesday morning at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Perry lauded the legislation as an historic milestone for Texas higher education in a ceremony inside the University’s Natural Science and Engineering Research Laboratory, built in part with support from the governor's Texas Enterprise Fund.

“There have been people who have had concerns that we didn’t have enough Tier One institutions in the state. I’ve shared those concerns,” Perry said. “Out of this legislation will come innovative, wealth-creating technologies.”

National research universities, often referred to as Tier One universities, attract top faculty and students to produce scientific innovation and economic benefit. Texas lags behind similarly sized states in the number of national research universities. Texas has only three Tier One schools – The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University – compared to California’s nine and New York’s seven.

House Bill 51 constructs a framework of funding that rewards performance by all of the state’s public universities, but in particular the seven universities classified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board as “emerging research universities.” They include Texas Tech University, The University of Houston, The University of North Texas, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas at El Paso and The University of Texas at San Antonio.  The legislation also provides matching state dollars for external financial support raised for research at these seven institutions.

Under the new act, more than $680 million may be available to Texas universities as they strive to attract the highest-quality faculty and students and build excellent programs. The bulk of this potential funding, $425 million, is part of a dormant state fund that can be reallocated to help emerging research universities if voters approve a constitutional referendum this November. 

Standing with Gov. Perry at the bill signing were UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, UNT System Chancellor Lee Jackson, UT System Regent Printice Gary, University of Houston Regents Welcome Wilson and Calvin Stephens, Texas Tech University Regent Ray Anders, and other university representatives, including UNT President Gretchen Bataille, UT Arlington President James Spaniolo, UT Dallas President David E. Daniel, UT El Paso Vice President for Research Roberto Osegueda and UT San Antonio Assistant to the President Albert Carrisalez.   

The sponsors of HB 51, State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas and Laredo State Sen. Judith Zaffirini spoke at the bill signing.  They were joined by their legislative colleagues and fellow authors of the bill, State Reps. Kelly Hancock, Carol Kent, Brian McCall and Jerry Madden; and State Sen. Florence Shapiro, who made remarks and introduced Perry.

 “Everyone is going to be a winner in House Bill 51,” Shapiro said. “It’s amazing how much we’ve done in one bill to affect higher education.”

Texas voters will decide the fate of the $425 million referendum in November. If the measure enabling use of the stranded funds is approved, the designated emerging research universities will be eligible for matching funds provided they earn and spend at least $45 million per year on research for two consecutive years. They also must meet four of six other criteria:

  • Have at least a $400 million endowment.
  • Award at least 200 doctorate of philosophy degrees per year.
  • Have high-achieving freshman classes.
  • Be recognized for scholarship and research.
  • Have a high-quality faculty.
  • Have excellent graduate education.

Standards, such as “high-achieving,” will be further specified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Speaking to the assembled university presidents and lawmakers, Daniel said, “This bill is a roadmap for establishing more national research universities in the state. We are deeply grateful to all of you for your leadership.”

There are proven benefits to communities that have a Tier One university. Alumni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, for example, have founded more than 4,000 companies which employ approximately 1.1 million people and generate $232 billion in sales, an amount roughly equal to the economic output of Houston or the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.    

Tier One schools also attract and retain top talent in their regions; 15 percent of Rice University’s undergraduate population comes from Harris County, but 33 percent of its alumni live there.  The availability of more Tier One universities will keep the state’s most academically talented students from leaving to attend out-of-state universities.  Texas ships off more than 10,000 high school graduates per year who attend doctorate-granting universities in other states, while recruiting only about 4,000 per year from other states.  This brain drain – a net loss of nearly 6,000 highly qualified students per year – is large and in the last six years has increased by 54 percent. 

Media Contacts:  Meredith Dickenson, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected]
or Karah Hosek, UT Dallas, (972) 883-4329, [email protected]

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry talks with UT Dallas research scientist Jean-Francois Veyan (right) and UT Dallas President David E. Daniel. The governor toured Dr. Yves Chabal's Laboratory for Surface and Nanostructure Modification after the bill signing.

Dan Branch   Florence Shapiro
State Rep. Dan Branch of Dallas and State Sen. Florence Shapiro of Plano praised the collaborative spirit that moved the bill from goal to reality.


House Bill 51
Tier One Program Summary

Program Summary

This bill creates a funding mechanism to help all Texas general academic institutions achieve the highest quality.  

Research University Development Fund ($126 million - originally allocated to the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund)

The research and emerging research universities will be awarded matching grants based on a formula modeled after the Texas Competitive Knowledge Fund, with institutions receiving funding based on their research expenditures.

TRIP matching grant ($50 million- new funding)

The emerging research institutions will receive matching grants for gifts, scholarship, and endowments. The percentage the state will match will be based on how much the institutions receive from these gifts, scholarships and endowments.

National Research University Fund ($425 million - contingent on voter approval of the Higher Education Fund re-allocation)

The emerging research institutions will receive funding once they have attained high benchmarks in research, endowment fund value, and high-achieving students and faculty. These funds will be given to those institutions that are closest to reaching national research status.

Performance Incentive Funding ($80 million - Governor's incentive funding)

All general academic institutions will receive incentive funding based on degrees awarded and increases in degrees awarded.  Extra weight will be given for degrees in critical fields and degrees given to students classified as “at-risk.”

University Funding for Excellence in Specific Programs and Fields (no funding)

The comprehensive universities will be awarded incentive funding to create premier programs that are recognized nationally and internationally.  Experts from outside the state will establish benchmarks of success, with the final benchmark being national recognition. Attainment of successive benchmarks earns an increasing incentive award.

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October 19, 2019