I figure, since I spent a lot of time dogging on Proposition 4 (the constitutional amendment last November, not the Republican primary ballot prop), readers might be interested to know that some universities have announced strategies for how they will attract the money that Proposition 4 promised – a part of a $500 million pie approved by voters last November. To earn that money, universities must spend at least $45 million on restricted research during the two years prior to the state’s budget cycle – one of the many requirements being laid out by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Seven state universities have submitted plans so far.  I’ve gotten some of this from the Dallas Morning News report on the topic today and the others from digging around university websites.

1 – The University of Texas at Arlington:  Offer doctorate degrees in nanoscience, sustainability and globalism, and expand existing doctoral programs.  Increase research spending $51 million to $210 million

2 – The University of Texas at Dallas:  Make the student body and faculty more diverse.  This meansadd faculty (from 419 now to 610 in a decade) and students (from 15,800 to 22,000); spend more on research each year (from $66 million to $130 million) and produce more students with doctorate degrees (from 124 to 240).  Here’s a link to their plan, submitted to the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.

3 – The University of Texas at San Antonio:  Raise admission standards and attract nationally competitive research faculty.  The DMN says that’s going to come at a price, as “just the start-up costs for a new researcher can run $350,000 to $2 million, not including salaries.” 

4 – University of North Texas:  Working on developing research initiatives; according to the North Texas Daily, plans are included in new budget proposals.  Also:  “UNT lags in restricted research awards and expenditures because as one of the state’s most comprehensive universities, with world-class music, art, education and humanities programs, we have attracted funding but not in the areas that qualify,” said Buddy Price [UNT’s news promotion manager].(from this article)

5 – Texas Tech University:  The specifics are not fully laid out that I can find, but the general overview is here, and it really equals more spending on research and faculty.

6 – University of Houston:  General overview and FAQ.  It comes down to attracting competitive faculty and more research grants.  U of H is probably as close as Texas Tech in achieving the standards required.

7 – The University of Texas at El Paso:  UTEP plans to increase the number of doctoral degrees (UTEP only graduated 35 in 2007-2008, and needs to reach 200 to qualify) and, like the others, focus on attracting matching grants to increase the amount of research already being done.  There’s an informative op-ed on the Prospector (UTEP student paper) site here.

I am still very much opposed to all of this.  The supporters said and still say, this isn’t going to cost us more money – and they are right that Prop 4 itself did not raise taxes.  But the consequence of all this extra spending, more “nationally competitive faculty,” “diversity” – it all equals more spending, and since these are public universities, taxpayers ARE taking the ultimate hit in the pocketbook.  We’re coming up on a budget shortfall in the state of Texas, and universities may have to take a hit like they did in 2003.  With tuition deregulated, it means that the universities will see fit to raise tuition to continue funding their initiatives to become Tier One eligible.  And when tuition goes up, financial aid becomes more necessary for more students.  The federal government just took over and nationalized the student loan industry (more here on those consequences) – and they already fund and back many student loans and other financial aid packages like Pell grants.  Where exactly do you think the money to do all of that comes from, anyway?

But the voters spoke, and now we just have to watch how this will all play out.  I wonder how much it will cost to go to Tier One UT-Arlington, anyway.

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