Proposition 4, which was put on the November 3rd ballot by HJR 14, was actually called for by the Tier One legislation (HB 51, Section 13). Prop. 4 calls for voters to vote on a constitutional amendment that will pave the road for seven emerging research universities to become national research universities—tier one universities. The language on the ballot will ask the public to vote on repurposing the Higher Education Fund as the National Research University Fund (NRUF).
The seven emerging research universities are UT Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso, UT San Antonio, Texas Tech University, the University of North Texas, and the University of Houston.
Creation of NRUF does not involve new money. It merely repurposes the currently dormant Higher Education Fund and dedicates that fund (plus any money added to it in future years) to universities that meet specific standards geared to national competitiveness as set out by the Legislature in HB 51 and further defined by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).
If voters pass Prop. 4 and establish the NRUF, the legislature has laid out the standards that will apply in order for a university to be eligible to receive funds.
To qualify for NRUF funds, emerging research universities must have restricted research expenditures totaling at least $45 million in each of the preceding two fiscal years.
In addition, universities must also meet four of these six criteria:
- Have at least $400 million in endowments
- Award at least 200 PhDs per year
- Have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, be a member of the Association of Research Libraries, or have been recognized by similar scholarly achievement
- Have a high achieving freshman class
- Have a high quality faculty
- Have excellent graduate education
These last three standards would be further defined by the THECB. None of the seven emerging research universities currently meet these standards, and it will likely take at least several years for any of the seven emerging research universities to be eligible for those funds.
The legislature would create the distribution methodology during the 2011 session. It is hoped that, by the time that any university is eligible for funding, the NRUF will have grown significantly from its current $425 million. The goal is for NRUF to eventually reach $2 billion and spin off about $25 million per year for research.