[UTA Magazine]


United they stood
Local lawmakers voice support for UTA during recent legislative session

While tuition deregulation at state universities took a spotlight in the regular session of the 78th Legislature, several members of the Tarrant County delegation kept UTA on the Capitol center stage.

Sens. Chris Harris and Kim Brimer and Rep. Toby Goodman authored a bill that would have removed UTA from The University of Texas System. Although eventually tabled, the legislation prompted spirited discussion. Those involved in the debate say it affirmed UTA's value to the Arlington community, the state and the U.T. System.

Texas Capitol

It also resulted in a resolution by the U.T. System Board of Regents committing to working with UTA and its constituencies "to accelerate the growth and development of the University, both as a comprehensive institution providing access and excellence to students at all levels of higher education, and also as a major research university at the forefront of discovery and innovation across a broad range of fields."

"I am most pleased with the response from the various communities that came together to support UTA," Sen. Harris said. "When it appeared that full consideration was not going to be given to UTA, groups and individuals came out of the woodwork to rally behind the University and show the importance of UTA to the entire Metroplex."

Harris emphasized that the supporters were not just UTA students but also faculty, business, civic and community leaders. "I and my fellow legislators would not have been nearly as successful this session in securing the commitments to UTA without this wonderful display of support from those we represent."

The regents' resolution does not contain any provisions that are unreasonable or unreachable, he said. "It simply sets out, in a clear and concise manner, what all parties involved should already recognize: UTA is a world-class university with unlimited potential to recognize the excellence this campus offers its students."

Sen. Brimer believes that the agreement will help UTA become a top tier research university and thus a more robust engine for higher education, creation of jobs and project funding.

"The effort helped to solidify an even greater degree of unity behind UTA in Fort Worth and Arlington," he said, adding that the agreement "will ensure that UTA along with U.T. Southwestern and U.T. Dallas will become an extremely dynamic university system focused both economically and technologically on regional and long-term growth."

Rep. Goodman said he was pleased with the "recognition of UTA as a tremendous asset to the Texas system of higher education and of UTA's importance to the future of North Texas."

"It is my hope and expectation that the written commitments received from Chancellor Yudof and the entire U.T. System Board of Regents will result in UTA achieving top tier research university status with full support in fund raising, funding, faculty recruitment and development and acquisition of facilities," he said.

Rep. Kent Grusendorf worked not only for funding and recognition, but as chair of the public education committee he pushed through a number of initiatives important to the UTA colleges of Education and Science. They included a bill establishing a master of science teacher certificate for teachers in elementary through high school that would provide a stipend for teachers earning the certificate.

But it was the public school financing issue that UTA alumnus Grusendorf ('65 BBA) considers the biggest challenge. The issue was moved to a special legislative session. In the meantime, $1.2 billion was allocated in temporary relief funding for school districts.

Rep. Bill Zedler counts the regents' commitment among his noteworthy accomplishments. "The agreement puts UTA on the path to flagship status," he said.

He also points to tuition deregulation as an important outcome of the session. "This recognizes the fact that one size does not fit all and eliminates the micromanaging of tuition that has been done in the past. The concept will allow UTA and other universities to determine the most efficient way to utilize their facilities."

Zedler considers his efforts to acquire funding for technology research crucial.

"I believe that it is an appropriate use of taxpayer money to make investments in development of new technology that can create new wealth. If that new technology can be developed at UTA, then it would be a significant benefit to the Arlington area as well as the entire state."

Rep. Bob Griggs of Fort Worth sought continued funding for the UTA Automation & Robotics Research Institute and support of general funding for UTA.

"Our success in limiting the severity of the cuts to UTA's budget speaks volumes for the grassroots effort on the part of the University staff, alumni, other supporters and particularly interim President Charles Sorber, who spent countless hours in Austin this session," he said.

Regarding research at UTA, Griggs noted, "The importance of the research being done at the University must be recognized, and it is vital to Texas that it is preserved. I join with the administration of the University to make sure this priority is not overlooked when state dollars are being appropriated."

- Donna Darovich

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