UTEP Left Out of Fund Despite Its Eligibility

Sharon Rieger's picture

Two Texas universities were denied access to a pot of state money despite meeting the required qualifications.

State lawmakers this session did not allow the University of Texas at El Paso and the University of Texas at Arlington to become part of a small group of universities that participate in the Competitive Knowledge Fund, which provides money to support faculty for the purpose of "instructional excellence" and research.

Four universities -- the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University, the University of Houston and Texas Tech University in Lubbock -- have benefited from the multimillion-dollar fund since it was established in 2007.

Additional universities could make it into the group if they attained a three-year average of $50 million in research expenditures as reported in the Higher Education Coordinating Board's accountability system.

The University of Texas at Dallas met that criteria first, followed by UTEP and UT Arlington.

The state House approved a budget that counted all three universities in the fund, but the Senate's budget included only Dallas.

When House and Senate negotiators met to hammer out the differences in both budgets, UTEP and UT Arlington were kept from joining the list of universities slated to tap into a pot of about $93 million over the next two years.

"When we got to the pay window, they pulled down the shade and said 'Sorry, you're not going to be in this fund,'" UTEP President Diana Natalicio said.

Natalicio said she is still waiting for a valid explanation of why UTEP was kept from entering the fund.

"We were prevented from participating even though we did comply, which says that it's meaningless to have criteria if you don't actually utilize those criteria," she said.

UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo echoed Natalicio's remarks.

"We have earned the right to be in this fund, and there is no justification for excluding us," Spaniolo said.

Read more