M. D. Anderson Internship No Matter How You Spell It,

TRIP & NRUF

Bring UH Closer to Tier One

by Eric Gerber ('72, M.A. '78)

Tier One at the University of Houston took one giant step forward this summer. After months of careful behind-the-scenes work, our Houston-area legislators collaborated with state leaders during the legislative session to put UH firmly on the track to achieving Tier-One status.

And, voters across the state took the next big step and approved a constitutional amendment creating the National Research University Fund (NRUF).

Proposition 4 (House Bill 51), as the amendment appeared on the Nov. 3 ballot, provides the funding that will turn the Texas Legislature’s vision of higher education excellence into a reality. Major newspapers across the state — including the Houston Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and Austin American-Statesman — enthusiastically endorsed it while political prognosticators confidently predicted passage of the enabling amendment.

This represents a real victory for UH and the other designated institutions that can compete for NRUF support.

There will now be legislation that spells out how this select group of seven Texas universities, including UH, can draw on substantial state funds to support world-class research and qualify for top-tier status. A base fund of $500 million in existing but dormant education money will be converted into a permanent account (NRUF) to support research expansion. (Earlier this year, the seven universities shared in a $50 million pool known as the Texas Research Investment Program (TRIP), the Texas Legislature made available independent of Proposition 4.)

For the record, the seven “emerging research” universities are UH, Texas Tech University, The University of Texas at Arlington, The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of Texas at San Antonio, The University of Texas at El Paso and the University of North Texas.

When an ebullient Gov. Rick Perry signed the Legislature’s NRUF proposal, he characterized the legislation as “a clear road map to help emerging research institutions reach the next level and as … a remarkable collaborative effort between a hard-working group of legislators and academic leaders from a number of universities.” For UH and its supporters, it has been not only a road map, but it also is a runway for a high-powered flight into fundraising and consciousness-raising.

“We competed vigorously for the matching funds, and our supporters stepped up with amazing and enlightened generosity,” UH President Renu Khator says of the preliminary TRIP funding. “We will compete just as vigorously to achieve the standards needed to qualify for NRUF support.”

Significantly, the creation of this new constitutional fund doesn’t require the collection of new revenue. It merely converts a currently dormant higher education fund of $500 million to this new, Tier-One-oriented objective. Since it’s likely that the designated universities will need several years to meet the eligibility benchmarks set by the Legislature and to be evaluated by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the fund amount is expected to grow appreciably. An optimistic goal is for NRUF to eventually approach the $2 billion mark, generating interest for the qualifying universities to draw on in their efforts to reach competitive Tier-One levels.

As the enabling legislation indicates, our state’s leaders have clearly demonstrated the considerable importance of developing additional Tier-One universities in Texas, where such institutions have been relatively scarce. Texas has only three such universities — state schools UT at Austin and Texas A&M plus Rice University, which is private — while comparable states, such as California and New York, have nine and seven, respectively.

That broad discrepancy is not just a matter of state pride. It’s a matter of economic survival and educational efficacy.


"I expect UH to be the next Tier-One university in Texas and to receive
the national recognition within five to seven years."


“In order for Texas to remain globally competitive, it needs more national research universities because they bring federal funding, incubate new ideas, prepare the work force of tomorrow and strengthen the economy in general,” says Welcome W. Wilson Sr., UH System Board of Regents chairman. “I’m delighted that our legislators worked together so effectively to face this challenge.”

Economists estimate that every $10 million in annual research spending creates about 334 jobs, adding $8.6 million in wages to the regional economy. After drawing $500,000 in added state and tax revenue and generating $13.5 million in local sales, the total amount results in a 226-percent return on investment, according to a recent analysis. Another example: Alumni from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Tier-One university by any measure, have founded more than 4,000 companies, which employ more than 1 million people and generate $232 billion in sales — an amount roughly equal to the total economic output of Houston.

Furthermore, the availability of more Tier-One universities in Texas will keep the state’s most academically talented students from leaving to attend out-of-state universities. Currently, Texas loses more than 10,000 high school graduates per year who attend doctorate-granting universities in other states, while attracting only about 4,000 students per year from other states. This brain drain — a net loss of nearly 6,000 highly qualified students per year — has increased more than 50 percent in the past six years. A Tier-One university provides greater opportunities for students to work with world-class faculty in nationally ranked programs and engage in cutting-edge research and learning. As a result, their degrees reflect a brand that is nationally recognized and globally respected.

“That is precisely what we are creating at UH,” says Khator.

With TRIP funds accounted for and NRUF funds looming on the horizon, what are the next steps toward Tier One for UH and how long will it take?

Keep in mind that, to gain recognition as a Tier-One institution, a university must be nationally competitive in the quality of its faculty, its academic programs and its student body.

The university also must produce nationally competitive research and scholarship, which is measured by the amount of research grants and funding awarded to its researchers and the impact its scholarship has in new discoveries. Finally, the university must prove it has the support base necessary to sustain this competitiveness, which is measured by alumni giving and the size of the endowment. Those are the objective measures national organizations generally use to gauge a university’s Tier-One standing. UH, by most accounts, has made great strides in all these areas and certainly none appears to be unreachable.

“I expect UH to be the next Tier-One university in Texas and to receive the national recognition within five to seven years,” Khator calculates.

That prediction will strike many as bold — and perhaps strike a few as unrealistic.

“But we have made tremendous progress during the past year, and we are filled with pride at the achievements produced by the hard work and passion of so many,” Khator and Wilson observed in an opinion article they jointly penned for the Houston Chronicle.

“Why would we think this incredible progress will not continue? With the additional funding and support to make UH a Tier-One institution, we can lead the way to transforming the state’s economy, and of equal importance, the face of higher education in Texas today.”

Legislative Acknowledgment

It’s been said that success has many parents. That’s certainly true in the case of creating a pathway for the University of Houston’s Tier-One aspirations. These state legislators, along with Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Speaker of the House Joe Straus, played significant roles in crafting, sustaining and ultimately passing the constitutional amendment and the enabling legislation. The University of Houston appreciates their persistent support over many years and salutes their dedication to improving higher education in the state of Texas.

PRIMARY SPONSORS OF LEGISLATION

REP. DAN BRANCH — Chairman, Higher Education Committee
REP. GARNET COLEMAN — Long-time UH and Tier-One Advocate; Chairman, County Affairs Committee
SEN. ROBERT DUNCAN — Conceived and passed constitutional amendment authorizing the NRUF; Chairman, State Affairs Committee
SEN. RODNEY ELLIS — Sponsored the first Tier-One legislation creating the Research Development Fund; Chairman, Government Organization Committee
*SEN. JUDITH ZAFFIRINI — Chairwoman, Senate Higher Education Committee; HB51 Sponsor

KEY COMMITTEE ACTIVISTS AND LEADERSHIP

*REP. BILL CALLEGARI (M.S. ’72) — Co-Author; Chairman, Greater Harris County Delegation
REP. ELLEN COHEN — Co-Author; Member, Higher Education Committee
REP. CRAIG EILAND — Co-Author; Speaker Pro Tempore
REP. ROB EISSLER — Co-Author; Chairman, Public Education Committee
*REP. JESSICA FARRAR (’95) — Co-Author; Chairwoman, Mexican American Legislative Caucus
REP. SCOTT HOCHBERG — Chairman, Appropriations Subcommittee on Education
REP. GEANIE MORRISON — Long-time Supporter; Member, Appropriations Subcommittee on Education; Former Chairwoman, Higher Education Committee
SEN. DAN PATRICK — Vice Chairman, Higher Education Committee
*REP. SENFRONIA THOMPSON (LL.M. ’96) — Co-Author; Chairwoman, Local and Consent Calendars Committee
*SEN. JOHN WHITMIRE — Dean, Texas Senate; Key Member, Appropriations Conference Committee; Chairman, Criminal Justice Committee
*REP. JOHN ZERWAS (’77) — Co-Author; Member, Appropriations Committee

ALUMNI/ACTIVE SUPPORTERS/CO-AUTHORS

*REP. ALMA ALLEN (Ed.D. ’92)
*REP. CAROL ALVARADO (’92, M.B.A. ’08)
*REP. JOHN DAVIS (’87)
*SEN. MARIO GALLEGOS
*REP. ANA HERNANDEZ (’99)
*REP. CHUCK HOPSON (’65) — Chairman, General Investigating Committee
*REP. DORA OLIVO (M.Ed. ’75, J.D. ’81)
*REP. SYLVESTER TURNER (’77)
*REP. HUBERT VO (’83)
*REP. ARMANDO WALLE (’04)
*REP. RANDY WEBER
*REP. BEVERLY WOOLLEY (’93)

OTHER ACTIVE SUPPORTERS AND CO-AUTHORS

REP. DWAYNE BOHAC
REP. DENNIS BONNEN — Chairman, Committee on Land and Resource Management
REP. JOE CRABB
REP. BRANDON CREIGHTON
REP. HAROLD DUTTON
REP. AL EDWARDS
REP. GARY ELKINS
REP. ALLEN FLETCHER
REP. PATRICIA HARLESS
REP. CHARLIE HOWARD
SEN. MIKE JACKSON — Chairman, Nominations Committee
REP. KEN LEGLER
REP. DEBBIE RIDDLE
REP. WAYNE SMITH
REP. LARRY TAYLOR
REP. KRISTI THIBAUT

OTHER ACTIVE SUPPORTERS

SEN. GLENN HEGAR
SEN. JOAN HUFFMAN
SEN. TOMMY WILLIAMS


*Alumni of UH System institutions

Bonus Content Only Online