From Texas Tech
By ALLEN RAMSEY
JULY 1, 2023
With more support from the state, the future is bright for Texas Tech University and the TTU System.
For 100 years, Texas Tech University has relied heavily on winning in Austin to help make it a world-class university.
Built as a university to help support and sustain the needs of West Texas, Texas Technological College came into being in 1923 and has been on an upward trajectory ever since.
While Texas Tech’s main campus in Lubbock is a shining example of what plenty of grit and determination can do to fulfill the educational needs of an entire region, the recent growth of Texas Tech and the Texas Tech University System (TTU System), thanks to the support of the Texas Legislature, has been immense.
“Continued support from the State of Texas has, for many years, effected positive changes in enrollment, student success and research outcomes,” said Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec. “We are fortunate to have Senator Charles Perry, Chairman Dustin Burrows and Representative Carl Tepper and visionary leadership in Austin that recognizes the many opportunities and benefits generated by investments in higher education.”
Since 2001, state funding to enhance research activities at Texas Tech has included the Research Development Fund (RDF), the Competitive Knowledge Fund, the National Research University Fund (NRUF), the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) and the Core Research Support Fund (CRSF).
“This legislative session was a banner year for the Texas Tech University System,” said Tedd L. Mitchell, M.D., chancellor of the TTU System. “I want to express my gratitude to our legislative leaders in Austin, starting with Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dade Phelan, along with our strong legislative delegations throughout the footprint of the TTU System and elected officials throughout the state who are champions for higher education and health care and advocates for their communities. ”
The investments have paid off in major ways.
In 2015 Texas Tech earned Carnegie R1 status – sometimes known as Tier One research status – and that distinction was reaffirmed in 2018 and 2021. Texas Tech is now one of just 21 universities nationwide to hold that distinction along with being classified as a Hispanic Serving Institution.
“The recent advances in Texas Tech’s reputation as a top U.S. public research university are directly attributable to the quality and commitment of our faculty,” said Vice President for Research and Innovation Joseph Heppert. “Over the past five years, federal awards to Texas Tech have increased by 78%, and last year we exceeded $200 million in total research expenditures for the first time in our history.”
Enrollment at Texas Tech has increased by more than 25% over the last decade, with graduate student enrollment increasing by 36% over the same period.
Along with having more students, Texas Tech has increased the percentage of successful students coming through the university. In just the last five years, the four-year graduation rate is up 9% and the six-year rate has seen a 5% increase. The total number of degrees awarded has increased by more than 35% over the last decade.
Following the most recent legislative session, state funding for Texas Tech looks likely to come from three main sources: Instructional Formulas, Institutional Enhancement and the proposed Texas University Fund (TUF).
Higher Education Instructional Formulas are a method of allocation for general revenue appropriations to different universities set by the Legislature each session. Since the end of the session May 29, House Bill 1, the General Appropriations Act, has been signed into law, securing formula funding for universities in Texas.
Generally speaking, the legislature increases or decreases funding for universities based on enrollment, though that isn’t a rule set in stone.
The instructional formulas take into account instruction and operations, infrastructure, research enhancement, graduate medical education, teaching experience and other factors to help set the formula for each session.
“Our increase in formula funds reflects our strategic priority to ensure an exceptional student experience as we grow with a purpose,” Schovanec said.
In the most recent appropriation bill, Texas Tech saw a substantial increase in its allocation of instructional funding thanks to the growth of its Graduate School and the increased numbers brought on by the first two classes admitted to the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo.
A significant increase in Institutional Enhancement funds was awarded to Texas Tech by the Governor’s Office in the 87th legislative session.
Those funds were continued in the most recent legislative session through support for Texas Tech’s exceptional item request.
Texas Tech will receive $50 million over the biennium ($41 million in new funds plus $9 million in existing funds) to support investment in academic excellence, student success and faculty success.
Institutional Enhancement funds have been used at Texas Tech to support student success and academic excellence initiatives such as the Raider Success Hub, a comprehensive approach to student success; hiring of 20 student success specialists and more academic advisers; as well as additional graduate assistantships.
In the area of faculty success, Texas Tech has been able to continue its recruitment of top-level faculty and researchers to enhance educational and research opportunities.
“Our real specialty at Texas Tech University is the ability to meet students where they are and help them succeed,” said Provost and Senior Vice President Ron Hendrick. “Similarly, our researchers work on real-world problems that solve issues in West Texas and around the world. The stabilization of these funds allows us to continue these efforts without pause.”
The proposed Texas University Fund would add another level of funding to increase research opportunities across multiple universities in Texas, including Texas Tech. TUF funding will require a constitutional amendment and will go to a statewide vote in November.
If the measure passes, the TUF will be established with an initial investment of $3 billion, plus the current NRUF balance of $900-plus million, to support research institutions.
“Between now and November, part of our task is to make sure we communicate the benefits of a preeminent research university to our state,” Schovanec said.
Texas Tech, Texas State University, the University of Houston and the University of North Texas all would receive TUF funding as the four public universities meeting the proposed guidelines for eligibility, but other universities could become eligible for TUF funding in the future.
The use of TUF funds would be limited to:
Providing faculty support and paying faculty salaries
Purchasing equipment or library materials
Supporting research performed at the institution, including undergraduate research Increasing technology transfer, commercialization and patent development Increasing the number of research doctoral graduates in Texas
“The Texas University Fund represents a transformational investment in higher education,” Schovanec explained. “It will help grow the research enterprise at universities benefiting from these funds, resulting in greater innovation, economic development and federal investment.”
The initial distribution to Texas Tech for the 2024 fiscal year is projected to be approximately $44 million.
At Texas Tech, these funds would be invested in current areas of excellence, with more research money available to study energy, agriculture and sustainability. These areas remain the lifeblood of West Texas, but the funding also will help launch a new initiative, One Health, to help secure the future of the region.
One Health is a critical field studying the environment, the transmission of diseases and how those two things impact the health of animals and humans. The initiative will have a far-reaching impact, helping secure the food supply, economic prosperity and human health of West Texas for generations to come.
“The financial investments our state made this session will benefit our students, faculty and staff, the operations of our universities and our institutions’ strategic priorities for years to come,” Mitchell said. “Texas Tech University’s future is bright as a leading research institution, and we look forward to the establishment of the Texas University Fund to provide financial support in perpetuity to further grow research expenditures and scientific doctoral programs at our system’s flagship institution.”