Gov. Abbott proposes fund to attract prestigious faculty

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Greg Abbott waves to supporters at the inaugural parade Tuesday afternoon. Abbott is the first new governor of Texas in 14 years, replacing fellow Republican Rick Perry.

Photo Credit: Ellyn Snider | Daily Texan Staff

Gov. Greg Abbott proposed the creation of a fund Thursday to incentivize universities across the state to hire prestigious faculty.

Under Abbott’s new proposal, the University Research Initiative, colleges and universities across Texas would be eligible to receive a portion of the fund to recruit nationally recognized, established researchers to join their faculties.

The money would come from the elimination of the Texas Emerging Technology Fund, founded by the legislature at the request of former Gov. Rick Perry in 2005. The fund, currently worth $485 million, was created to give Texas an advantage in the technology field.

Fifty percent of the TETF fund would go to the Texas Enterprise Fund, a fund to attract and retain businesses in the state. The other half of the TETF would go to the Higher Education Coordinating Board to fund the University Research Initiative.

According to a statement released by the governor’s office, researchers who qualify under the proposal would be either a Nobel Laureate, Academy Member or someone of an equivalent achievement level.

In the statement, Abbott said he encouraged universities to recruit researchers who specialize in math, science, technology and engineering.

UT System spokeswoman Karen Adler said the TETF has given some money to higher education in the past, but Abbott’s plan would benefit the UT System schools to a greater degree.

“The Emerging Technology Fund has been beneficial to higher education, and we are grateful for it,” Adler said. “We appreciate Gov. Abbott’s recognition of the value of the state helping universities recruit faculty to advance learning, research and the state’s economy and look forward to working with him and the legislature as his proposal works its way through the process.”

UT spokesman Gary Susswein said although the administration is still reviewing the governor’s proposal, it looks like a step in the right direction.

“Obviously, one of the keys to maintaining and increasing your excellence as a university is to have the very best faculty,” Susswein said. “They create a robust learning environment, they help students, and they help foster world-changing research. Having the resources to be able to hire the best faculty, who, in turn, help cultivate the best students, is very important.”

The elimination of the TETF will not adversely impact Texas’ economy, according to Abbott.  

“Texas will continue to make meaningful and effective investments in job creation,” Abbott said. “Now, we must also harness our resources to elevate Texas’ higher education institutions as integral participants in our economic advancement.”

Abbott said his plan will attract renowned researchers, help stimulate the state’s economy and benefit Texas universities. In his plan, Abbott said Texas universities have the potential to have five schools among the top 10 in the country.

“Texas will be home of the research centers and great minds that will transform the next generation,” Abbott said.