Since the Tier One talk began, I have seen and heard folks giving their wholesale support to Proposition 4–Funding for Tier One. I had not heard a proper description of Tier One until I found an article by the President of UT-Dallas.
What Are Tier One Universities?There is no universally accepted definition for a Tier One university, but three definitions might be considered:1. Membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU), which is “the club” of the nation’s 60 best research universities. Texas has 3 AAU institutions – Rice, Texas A&M, and UT Austin. California has nine – Caltech, Stanford, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, UC Santa Barbara, and USC. New York has seven. Perhaps no statistic better reflects Texas’ disadvantage with respect to Tier One universities than this lag behind California and New York. For reference, the AAU universities are listed in Table 1 with those in CA, NY, and TX highlighted.2. Annual research expenditures of $100 M or more. Research funding is critical to being a Tier One university, and a minimum of $100 million of annual research funding is often mentioned as an essential credential.3. U.S. News and World Report Rankings. Research funding alone does not make a university top tier. Other factors, such as quality and reputation, are also important. National rankings, such as the often-cited U.S. News and World Report rankings, consider reputation, quality, funding, research productivity, and others. The U.S. News rankings, though subject to criticism, have become widely used and quoted. The top 50 public national universities from the 2008 U.S. News and World Report rankings are shown in Table 2 for reference, with those in the three most populous states (CA, TX, and NY) highlighted.
Perhaps the one we should be paying most attention to is #3 and it’s “Other factors” sentence. Quality and reputation are indeed important. Quality can be based on the rigors of the programs, but also by the quality of the stats produced by the institution, such as graduation rates.
Because graduation rates are based on a period of 6-years, let’s check the stats for some of the Tier One schools currently in the mix: UCLA-89%; UC-Berkeley-86%; UT and A&M-77%, respectively. Even one of the lower-ranked schools, University of Arizona, came in at 55%. So, as one can see, these schools have earned a bit of respect because they are able to send out their graduates to the workforce pretty effectively.
Let’s look at graduation rates for some of the schools we are voting on: U of Houston: 42%; U of North Texas: 45%; UT-San Antonio-30%; Texas Tech-57%; UT-Arlington-39%; UT-Dallas-56%; UT-El Paso-26%.
DosCentavos.net has mentioned it before. The priorities of the Texas Legislature are screwed up. While they want to throw research funding at these universities, the majority of them have not reached that “respected” level of graduation rates that are seen as “Tier One.” The Legislature has failed to show progress in increasing graduation rates at most of these universities that we are considering on the ballot, yet, we want to support what may be a futile attempt to gain some sort of artificial status?
Until the Legislature (1) Improves funding and programs to ensure our K-12 students are prepared for a University education, (2) Improves funding and programming to reduce the number of college students enrolled in developmental (remedial) courses to prepare them for a University experience, and (3) Improves funding and programming to increase retention and graduation programs, then the dream of becoming Tier One will only be a dream.
DosCentavos.net recommends a NO vote on Proposition 4. But if you truly must vote for Prop. 4, then make a concerted effort to join the fight to truly improve our colleges and universities, as Prop 4 supporter State Rep. Garnet Coleman (as Kuff posted) stated: