4

UH Holding Out for More Tier One Funds, Blocking Legislative Deal

^
Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

The University of Houston is the last holdout in a vote to set the funding distribution method out of a voter-backed endowment devoted to ramping up the number of nationally ranked universities in Texas.

The University of Texas and Texas A&M University are the state's two flagship Tier I universities. Lawmakers agreed last session to sweeten the pot in order to add to that number, intending to take pressure off the waiting list at UT Austin. Voters passed a constitutional amendment to back that effort in November 2009.

Now the time has come to agree to a way to distribute the money, but a deal has been stalled for weeks. Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, told the Senate Higher Education Committee this morning she expected some resolution before session's end. She's given UH two choices: either sign onto the plan that six other institutions have agreed to support or propose a plan that can win unanimous approval.

Senator Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who is a key player in the deal, has tight deadlines to meet but tells Hair Balls he is confident a deal can be cut. The problem right now is that UH wants a bigger slice of the pie than key lawmakers are willing to support.

"We will get this done and we will create additional Tier One institutions," Ellis said. "I am committed to getting the most sustainable and best funded plan possible so that we create more world-class institutions in the shortest amount of time possible. I believe we can deliver a big investment now and still maintain a large and growing reserve fund for universities that move along the path to Tier One Status down the road."

Seven emerging research universities are vying for money out of the so-called National Research University Fund. Three of those universities -- UH, Texas Tech and UT Dallas -- expect to qualify for funding this biennium under criteria set out by the Texas Higher Education Coordination Board in January.

The funding support, under various bills proposed this session, would have ranged from $6.75 million on the low end to $15 million in a bill backed by Ellis and Representative Garnet Coleman. Right now, the mid-course adjustment is a bill sponsored by House Higher Education Chair Representative Dan Branch, R-Dallas, that would provide both UH and Texas Tech with about $9 million.

UH wants more money on the front end, and less devoted to building the endowment's financial base, in order to build the university's stature quicker. The other six universities agreed to hold off a bit more, in an effort to leave more money for the four lagging institutions. Stay tuned for the final deal.

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.

 

Join the Press community and help support independent local journalism in Houston.