Tribpedia: Tier One Universities

Texas is home to three universities that have received the tier-one designation: The University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and the private Rice University.

Schools that receive at least $100 million each year in research grants, have selective admissions and low student-faculty ratios and competitive faculty salaries are typically considered tier-one universities.

Members of the American Association of Universities are also typically considered to be tier-one schools. 

California is home to nine tier-one institutions.

Texas legislators and higher education officials have long agreed the state needs more top tier universities. But the discussion was mired in political and regional fights over the money and prestige that would come to an area designated to get the next top school.

In 2009, lawmakers approved a bill and an amendment to the Texas Constitution that would set up a competition among public universities to reach tier one status.

The plan would make about $680 million available to seven schools: UT Arlington, UT San Antonio, UT El Paso, UT Dallas, the University of Houston, Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas.

Some of the funds will be used as matching money. The state will match dollars that schools raise from philanthropic contributions and grants they get for some types of research. 

To access funds that Texas voters approved in the 2009 Constitutional Amendment Election under Proposition 4 - about $425 million - would require schools to meet a set of more stringent criteria. Schools would have to generate $45 million of federally funded research annually in two consecutive years. They would also have to meet four of six additional criteria, including endowments worth at least $400 million, awarding 200 doctoral degrees per year and having high-quality faculty.

Lawmakers said they hoped the additional funding would propel one of the seven public universities to the top tier within five to 10 years.

But even with the additional state funding, higher education officials estimate it could take a decade or more for another Texas university to achieve tier one status.

Raymund Paredes, higher education commissioner, told the Austin American-Statesman it would take at least 20 years for any of the seven Texas universities to reach the top tier.

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