Texas Tech University and Lubbock and the University of Houston have met the state's "tier one" eligibility requirements, Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes announced in a letter last week to the state auditor's office.
If and when those findings are verified by the state auditor, the two universities will have access to money from the National Research University Fund, a pot of money Texas legislators created in 2009 at the same time they began a seven-institution competition to be the state's next top-tier public research university.
The NRUF, as it's called, is meant to be prize money for universities that are able to leverage private donations, state incentives and research dollars to hit lofty benchmarks defined by the state.
To get access to the funds, an institution must be classified as an "emerging research" university by the coordinating board, have annual restricted research expenditures of $45 million or more and meet four of the following six criteria: $400 million endowment, 200 Ph.D.'s awarded annually, high achieving freshman class, high quality faculty, membership in a national honors society and a commitment to graduate research.
This long-awaited announcement is as expected as it is exciting for the institutions. According to a recent coordinating board report, of the eight "emerging research" universities in the competition — originally there were seven, but Texas State University was recently upgraded — only Tech and UH have the required research expenditures. They are also the only universities to meet four of the six criteria, though the University of Texas at Dallas is close behind with three.
Debate among universities over how eligibility for funding should be measured and how universities that meet the requirements should be rewarded has been, at times, involved and even contentious. That dialogue is expected to continue as the process carries on.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/texas-education/higher-education/tech-and-uh-qualify-tier-one-prize-money/.