News for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

UNT set to gain millions in funding as Texans give thumbs-up to Proposition 5

A student walks through the Library Mall at the University of North Texas in 2022.
Emil Lippe
For The Texas Tribune
A student walks through the Library Mall at the University of North Texas in 2022.

UpdateThis story was updated at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Lone Star State will soon have the Texas University Fund.

Texas voters passed a proposition Tuesday that will provide transformational research funding for the University of North Texas, Texas State University, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University.

With 87% of polling locations reporting statewide by early Wednesday, 64% of Texas voters gave Proposition 5 a thumbs-up. Incomplete local results Tuesday night showed about 65% of Denton County ballots were in favor, with 83% of county precincts reporting.

The four university systems serve more than 160,000 students from working and middle-class families from across the state, and all are Carnegie Tier One research institutions.

In casting their ballots, Texans might also approve a second fund, the National Research Support Fund, which would invest dollars in programs at the University of Texas Arlington, UT Dallas, UT El Paso and UT San Antonio.

The amendment will require the Legislature to approve funding for the support fund every two years.

Finally, the amendment standardizes performance metrics used to evaluate university programs in grant qualifications.

For the last 147 years, only two Texas university systems have benefited from the $30 billion Permanent University Fund: the University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Supported by oil and gas and other land uses, the permanent fund has been the envy of the other university systems.

Since achieving Tier One status, UNT has built competitive programs in biology, engineering, energy sustainability and other sciences and has won millions in grants to further research.

The amendment clears the way for the Texas Legislature to prime the pump for the four university systems with $4 billion in initial funding for the new permanent endowment. Following that initial amount, the Legislature will be able to provide $100 million per year of the interest and investment income from the Economic Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund.

The amendment also will allow state lawmakers to add eligible public universities to the fund, but only if more money is provided.

The Texas University Fund was designed to invest in emerging research universities in the state, with lawmakers supporting it because highly regarded Tier One research institutions have stimulated both regional and state economies.

The new fund should attract more research faculty, giving the universities a more competitive edge in recruitment. Generally, a stable of renowned faculty can attract more students and graduate students.

Kim Garza Turner, a UNT alumna and the system coordinator for the Texas University Fund Political Action Committee, said in an interview before Tuesday’s election that the fund would stimulate regional and state economies.

“The fund allows more Texas universities to receive national rankings in research, which directly impacts graduates and jobs,” she said. “The fund would make a lot of difference when it comes to meeting the demands of industry.

“As you know, Denton County is, what, the fourth fastest-growing county in the country? Can this help the universities meet the needs of the Texas economy? Yes.”