Proposition 5 on Texas ballot would create new endowment for ‘emerging’ research universities

For years, the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University have represented Texas as the top two public research institutions in the state. Those who support schools with colors other than burnt orange or maroon lament that the schools have gained prestige by tapping a $32 billion endowment that helps them attract top faculty, increase research funding and construct new buildings.

This year, Texas lawmakers established a new path for other public universities interested in joining the Longhorns and Aggies in the upper echelon of nationally ranked schools.

They created the Texas University Fund, a $3.9 billion endowment to help other “emerging” research universities across the state enhance their research capabilities with the goal of joining the top public institutions across the country.

Proposition 5, a constitutional amendment to authorize the state to create the new endowment, is in front of Texas voters in the Nov. 7 election. Early voting started this week on that and 13 other proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.

To back Proposition 5, lawmakers put a one-time allotment of $3 billion from the state’s budget surplus toward the fund. An additional $900 million will be rolled into this new endowment from the National Research University Fund, created more than a decade ago to finance research universities. If approved by voters, the state would also contribute $100 million annually from interest accrued on the state’s rainy day fund.

The endowment, to be managed by the Texas Treasury Safekeeping Trust Co., does not require any new taxes to pay for it.

State officials say increasing the number of top-ranked universities in the state will drive local and statewide economic growth and keep Texas competitive.

“We’re the eighth-largest economy in the world,” said Texas Higher Education Commissioner Harrison Keller. “We need more research universities that are able to compete with the strongest research and development institutions in the world.”

Read the full story from the Texas Tribune here.