By Dave Moore, Staff Writer
Universities in North Texas produce half a billion dollars in research annually. Yet, the state primarily funds institutions of higher education based on enrollment, and the state is having trouble meeting funding needs to match the region’s exploding research growth.
Those universities have amassed more than $150 million in philanthropic dollars for research, and for more than a year, those dollars have remained unspent, awaiting matching funding from the Texas Legislature as part of the Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP).
North Texas legislators told more than 80 leaders representing regional businesses, nonprofits, and Dallas Region higher education institutions that both issues stand in the way of the Dallas Region continuing its momentum and growth in higher education. The group gathered at the Dallas Regional Chamber’s second Education to Employment Outlook breakfast series on Sept. 10 to discuss higher education funding, policy, and the key issues for the upcoming legislative session. The 86th Texas Legislative Session begins Jan. 8, 2019.
“We need to recognize one size doesn’t fit all and to allow flexibility in that funding formula,” said event speaker Texas State Sen. Kelly Hancock, who serves as the co-chair of the Joint Interim Committee on Higher Education Formula Funding. “The status quo will never put us on a path to becoming a higher education force.”
Hancock added, “The goals and objectives [of institutions] are very different. One of the reasons UT Southwestern is penalized is because the current funding formula is based on enrollment growth. UT Southwestern isn’t looking for enrollment – they’re looking to lead the nation in research.”
Proponents for diversifying Texas higher education funding say that while schools such as UT Southwestern derive some benefit from enrollment-based funding, extra consideration should be directed to research-driven schools, where the primary focus rests on breakthroughs in medical science.
Aside from advocating for additional funding for rapidly growing schools in the region, the DRC and its education partners are also working with legislators to increasing funding to schools with enrollments with higher concentrations of first-generation and low-income students. Many institutions of higher education in the Dallas Region fit both profiles.
Both Hancock and Texas State Rep. Linda Koop of Dallas participated in the panel during the event. Koop addressed a question about TRIP funding.
“When you have philanthropists giving you tens of millions of dollars and they’re wanting to match, you know that all the money is there from the philanthropists. I think there’s $154 million sitting, waiting for its match [at the state]. Either get rid of the program, and say we’re not going to have it anymore – which I don’t think we all want – or fund the program.”
Koop added that if Dallas County continues along its current education path – aligning school districts, community colleges, and institutions of higher education with the business community – it can serve as a model for other regions in Texas.
“I think that you, in this room, have a perfect opportunity to do this, through the Dallas Regional Chamber,” she added.
Those comments by Koop and Hancock followed a presentation by DRC Managing Director of Higher Education & Workforce Elizabeth Caudill, who described the scope and impact of higher education in the Dallas Region.
“Our region has the most students enrolled in post-secondary education as well as the highest annual degree completion of any region in Texas,” she said. “The higher education community looks a lot like the business community in North Texas – outperforming other regions and growing rapidly.”
Among the stats she shared:
“Not only are we producing the most students in Texas, and preparing them at elite institutions… the DFW region is retaining students to live and work,” Caudill said. “The Dallas Region has the sixth highest retention rate in the United States for retaining college graduates with 72 percent of them staying in the region.”
High talent retention rates indicate the region’s universities are providing North Texas employers with the talent they need, she added.
Those interested in helping increase legislative awareness for the need to create greater flexibility in the State of Texas’ Higher Ed funding formula and/or to fund the state’s TRIP program should contact Caudill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Education to Employment Outlook series is presented by Texas Instruments and ONCOR. The higher education funding event was additionally sponsored by State Farm, Dallas County Community College District, and University of Texas at Arlington/University Crossroads.
The DRC is an active supporter and leader in the region for higher education issues and public policy.
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