Last Thursday’s hearing of the interim joint higher education committee in Austin was the first opportunity for several of Texas’ university leaders to address lawmakers on their progress toward becoming so-called Tier-One research institutions.

I’m all for the plan, even with its compromises, especially because it injects competition into the formula used to boost funding of the schools involved. The fact that each institution must first raise money from sources other than the state treasury before getting matching funds from the new Texas Research Incentive Plan makes me like it more.

And yes, I’ll admit that higher education money is an investment in the state’s future and carries with it a certain priority. But as we’ve been discussing of late on Pratt on Texas, state supported schools are units of state government and must learn to get spending under control.

Texas faces a big budget shortfall, and just as with public schools, there will be incredible pressure to still provide increased funding to colleges as well as fund Tier-One projects. But, just because the universities are in investment in the future doesn’t change the fact that we can’t spend money we do not have.

We’ve seen Texas Tech and UT announce that they’ve met the 5% mandated cuts in their budgets but somehow have managed to still have 6 to 9% growth in their overall budgets for the next year. These two are not alone in such spending plans and thus, reasonable people can conclude that the schools aren’t in as dire need of more appropriations as they will claim.

Robert Pratt is host of the top-rated Pratt on Texas radio program which can be heard at

Pratt on Texas

Robert Pratt has been active in Texas Republican politics since the Reagan re-elect in 1984. He has served as Lubbock County Republican chairman, and in 2006 founded the Pratt on Texas radio network, providing the news and commentary of Texas on both radio and podcast. Learn more at