UT President Powers: Texas Needs More Top Tier Universities

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We'll do this in timeline style:

May 29, 2008 — The Texas Legislative Study Group, a public policy group Chaired by Rep. Garnet Coleman, releases an eight-page study on the “State of Higher Education in Texas” — which includes numerous lengthy, policy-based recommendations, including the following call for more Top Tier universities in Texas:

The state's investment in university research programs must be expanded, creating more tier-one institutions of higher learning to compete with other states – this would ease crowding at Texas' two flagship universities by increasing available slots of excellence for Texas students while bringing more industries and economic development to the state and creating jobs for Texans.

June 9, 2008: Dallas Morning News editorial titled, “Austin right to push Top Tier universities” reads:

The same higher-ed report declared another vital goal: building more Tier One universities in Texas. In doing so, the House's Legislative Study Group became the first panel of lawmakers to propose an approach for next year's lawmaking session.

The argument is student-focused, an important perspective. With only two top-tier public universities – the University of Texas and Texas A&M – the state can't accommodate the growing number of high-achieving students looking for a selective university with research-rich doctoral programs. Automatic admissions under the top 10 percent law put particular pressure on both schools.

June 10 – July 2008: A steady stream of newspaper stories support an increase in higher education funding, as I documented here on Burnt Orange Report.

July 24, 2008: Article in today's Statesman titled, “UT president urges Texas to invest in more top-tier universities” includes the following:

The president of the University of Texas delivered an impassioned plea to state legislators Wednesday to provide the financial and political support for lifting one or two public universities to top-tier status.


“I think it'll take great leadership in the Legislature, the rest of government and on our campuses and (university) systems.”

We agree, President Powers. And it's pretty clear what policy group — and which political party — has been willing to show that great leadership in the Legislature.

More Top Tier universities will do an incredible amount for the state of Texas. I'm going to close with the following argument from the LSG report that started it all:

Investment by the state serves as seed money. To qualify as tier one, a school needs to spend $100 million on research. After initial investments by the state, additional funding is drawn from federal and private grants as a return on the investment. Investment in research and development yields a 20 to 30 percent rate of return to the state in terms of jobs and economic stimulus.

Money begets money, and the state’s additional investment in institutions of higher education would not only greatly expand the possibilities for students, resulting in a better educated populace, but would help the state maintain a competitive economic edge in technology and human capital in the 21st century.

About Author

Phillip Martin

Currently the Research and Policy Director for Progress Texas and the Texas Research Institute, Phillip Martin writes occasional long-form pieces for BOR that promote focused analysis and insight into Texas politics. Born and raised in Austin, Phillip started working in politics in 2003 and started writing on BOR in the summer of 2005. Phillip has worked for the Texas Democratic Trust, the Texas Legislative Study Group, and now the Progress Texas family. He is a lifelong Houston Astros fan, a loyal Longhorn, and loves swimming at Barton Springs Pool.


  1. I agree but …
    the money is going to have to come from somewhere and in this economic climate, I suspect, no one is going to be willing to offer their little piece of the pie. If UT is serious about this venture then they will need to use all of their legislative clout and influence. UT is also going to have to put up or shut up and allow the next tier one school a piece of the PUF. UT is going to have to show A&M how this would benefit both schools and the state. Then as a joint effort they will have to convince both the vast number of legislators from UT and A&M and their alumni and students (especially The Batt which rails against splitting the PUF) that allowing the PUF to help fund a third tier one school is in their best interests.

    Now, I understand that the PUF serves more than just A&M and UT but the other institutions it serves are all part of the A&M or UT systems and are much smaller schools that will not be the next tier one school. I also know that the PUF can't fund this new tier one school but it can provide important seed money and a continuous income for bonds. Allow the next tier one school just a tenth of the PUF and then let UT and A&M to split the remaining into their respective 2/3 and 1/3.

    Now the debate is who's the best candidate. My vote is Texas Tech but Houston could put up a good argument and maybe UNT to a lesser degree. Some of the schools that have an outside chance are Texas State or UT Arlington. I think the real race though is between TTU and UH and it's TTU's race to lose.

    • On funding — from the report
      I quote from the LSG report

      The University of Houston needs $24 million to reach that threshhold, Texas Tech needs $49 million, UT-Dallas needs $57 million, UT-El Paso needs $58 million, UT-Arlington needs $65 million, UT-San Antonio needs $68 million and UNT needs $84 million in additional funding. An investment of $405 million could yield seven additional Tier One Schools in Texas, bringing the total to nine. An investment of $188 million could bring in four schools to Tier One status (Tech, UH, UTD & UTEP).

      Just sharing — I wanted to pull out the facts from the LSG report, to supplement your good points.

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