Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s office has announced that he has signed Senate Bill 632 to put in place the Governor’s University Research Initiative, an emergency measure that will bring nationally-recognized researchers and Nobel Laureates to Texas universities and colleges.
The signing took place at The University of Texas at Austin where the governor was joined by lawmakers who helped in the passage of his plan and chancellors from university systems across the state.
“The University Research Initiative, combined with all other higher education legislation I have signed today, will be the compelling force in driving innovation, advancing our higher education system to unprecedented levels and spurring our state’s economic development engines to fuel future growth in the Lone Star State for generations to come,” said Governor Abbott.
Governor Abbott also signed legislation that will codify allocation models for university research funding programs (HB 1000); will ensure Advanced Placement credits earned in high school will be honored in college (HB 1992) ; and guarantee that freshman and sophomore core courses are consistently transferable between schools (HB 2628,).
But Abbott’s pen didn’t rest there. He also signed in HB 158, which optimizes career and technical training to meet growing demand for jobs; SB 18, which increases medical residency positions in Texas; and SB 239, which establishes student loan repayment for mental health professionals in order to attract more students to the mental health profession.
Abbott added that the Senate Bill 632 would be an important part of meeting his goal of raising several Texas institutions of higher education into the top ten universities and colleges across the country, according to UTNews. The funding influx will not only attract the brightest and best faculty and researchers, but will also benefit the state’s economic development and enhance the state’s growth for future generations.
After signing the bill, the governor gave his pen to Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) in appreciation of her long-term efforts to advance higher education in the Lone Star State.
Your Houston News quotes Gov. Abbott’s further comments at the signing event:
“Today is a day of celebration as we launch this new initiative ensuring that Texas will attract even more of the greatest, proven minds in the country. I’m proud to be able to sign this piece of legislation. It’s a great day for higher education in the State of Texas.”
Abbott’s predecessor, Rick Perry, had pushed for an initiative of his own, the Emerging Technology Fund, a highly-criticized measure. The University of Texas System’s faculty and leadership, however, has been solidly behind Abbott’s goals. The governor has stated that he wants to see the state’s colleges and universities ranked No. 1 in the nation, and he believes his initiative puts the state “on a pathway toward that lofty goal.”
Although former governor Perry convinced the Legislature to approve his technology fund a decade ago in order to encourage high-tech startups, a 2011 report from the state auditor revealed the program had flaws. The initiative, which included a $400 million allocation to universities and companies, was not transparent and had not been properly tracked.
Abbott’s bill does away with Perry’s fund, according to Marissa Barnett of The Dallas Morning News, and replaces it with the Governor’s University Research Initiative. The plan will receive $40 million from the state budget, but the Legislature budgeted over $400 million for research at public universities so that all schools will receive increased formula funding.
Abbott said that in total, the state’s colleges and universities would have access to $4 billion more than was available in the previous session.