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Legislature rewards excellence
Local lawmakers play key role in University's increased funding

Texas legislators increased funding for higher education during the 2001 session, providing $67.5 million in excellence funding and giving UTA $16.6 million to partially fund a new science building.

In addition, funding for the University's Automation & Robotics Research Institute received an increase of $400,000 per year for the 2002-2003 biennium, and the University received $450,000 in funds over the two years for a new science education center.

Texas Dome
"The more we spend on restricted research and the more master's and Ph.D. students we graduate, the more excellence funding we will be eligible to receive."
- governmental relations Director
Kate Kettles

Thanks to steady increases in enrollment, UTA also received $10.3 million more in operating funds for the next biennium.

"We had a lot of strong support in getting measures passed this session," explained governmental relations Director Kate Kettles. "The Arlington, Fort Worth and Dallas legislative delegations worked together to support the Metroplex schools, and UTA alumni and other supporters made many calls to friends in the Legislature. Some of our distinguished alumni really stepped up for us as well."

The new excellence funding will be divided among general academic institutions other than U.T. Austin, Texas A&M University and Prairie View A&M University. The funding is designed to promote increased research capacity and to develop institutional excellence at all eligible general academic teaching institutions. Eligible doctoral and research universities, including UTA, will receive funds based on research expenditures and the number of graduate students earning degrees.

"The more we spend on restricted research and the more master's and Ph.D. students we graduate, the more excellence funding we will be eligible to receive," Kettles said. "More weight is given to the research dollars in this funding system, but both elements are important.

"The eventual goal is to have more nationally and internationally recognized research universities in Texas."

Excellence funding will enable universities to steadily increase the number and quality of their doctoral and master's programs and to offer competitive faculty salaries and build cutting-edge research programs.

Keith McDowell, vice president for research and information technology, said UTA already has several initiatives in place to generate more excellence funding.

"We have instituted a much broader fellowship program, particularly more doctoral fellowships, and have targeted many of them to engineering and science to build up our research programs," he said. "We want to get our master's and doctoral students heavily involved in research."

Dr. McDowell also expects the University's Nanofab facility to develop excellence and research funding. "The Metroplex area is second only to Silicon Valley in the high-technology industry. Nanofab plays to that."

Other UTA research centers, such as High Energy Physics and Energy Systems Research, will receive seed funds for research with the expectation that their work will, in turn, generate more funding, Dr. McDowell said.

In another action, the Legislature also approved a recreational sports fee, which students began paying last fall. Funds generated from the $9-per-semester fee will pay for renovations to the intramural fields, as well as building and equipping a cardiovascular room in the Activities Building.


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