The plan has impact well beyond campus. Major research universities spin off ideas and jobs that pump octane into the economy. Texas, however, lags behind other megastates in the number of so-called Tier One universities and venture capital they attract.
Dallas-Fort Worth is particularly anemic, being the largest U.S. metro area without even one national research university. On the other hand, D-FW could benefit more from Prop 4 than anywhere in Texas. North Texas is home to three universities – UT-Dallas, UT-Arlington and the University of North Texas – among the seven eligible to compete for the new incentives.
Local voters should see this as an opportunity to push for a school at the level of UT-Austin, Texas A&M in College Station or Rice in Houston.
Prop 4 is the most robust and permanent of different provisions approved by the Legislature this year to make sure Texas gains ground in the global technology race. One provision set aside $25 million to match new private research gifts if universities could go out and get them.
And they did. Texas' seven emerging research universities claimed the entire $25 million pot in just one day. Prop 4 would keep those competitive fires burning on a larger scale.
Upgrading Texas' emerging research universities would help the state compete better nationally for research dollars. With 8 percent of the U.S. population, Texas manages to get only 5 percent of federal research funding.
Texas can and should do better, and passing Prop 4 is a step toward that.