UH's "Tier One" Talk Gets a Little More Legitimate

Just as Houston officials throw around "world-class city" ad nauseam, boosters of the University of Houston throw "Tier One University" into every other sentence, it seems.

The mysterious and vague "Tier One" description is reserved for the nation's elite schools; Rice, UT and A&M have it, and the Texas legislature is divvying up fast-disappearing higher ed funds among a handful of the state's other schools, letting them try to reach that exalted status.

UH got a step up in that competition today. The Carnegie Foundation issued its revised rankings of schools and decided UH is in their Top Tier, at least.

"I am so happy and so proud," UH President Renu Khator said. "Our students -- who today begin a new semester with this incredible news -- can say with pride they are getting a Tier One education. They will finally be able to take their diplomas and say, 'I have graduated from a Carnegie Tier One university.'"

UH plans to hold a ceremony celebrating the announcement, for crying out loud, later this month.

The Carnegie designation doesn't mean UH is what everyone considers a Tier One school, but it is a component of that informal assessment. Other factors include research budgets, graduation rates (where UH falls most short) and declarations by other educational groups.

UH has a broader interpretation of when a school can be declared to be in Tier One:

Within the academic community, the Carnegie classification is commonly regarded to be one of three indicators that reflect an institution's rank as a Tier One institution. The other two are its rank in the Center for Measuring University Performance's Top American Research University (TARU) reports and membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU). Recognition by any of these three is generally taken as an indication of Tier One status.

Others might not agree. Still, the Carnegie announcement is a positive step forward.

"I give the credit to our faculty, our staff, our students and our Board of Regents who have been so supportive the last two or three years," Khator said. "But, at the end of the day, great communities build great universities. It is a compliment to the city and the state and to our fabulous delegation members, our legislative leaders who believed this was an important initiative."

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