Separating Truth from Fiction in Higher Education Research
One proven tactic of propaganda is that if you want to distract people from the conversation you should be having, don't be afraid to lie ... and lie big.
The big lie currently making the rounds in Texas is that elected or appointed officials want to undermine or deemphasize research at our colleges and universities. This disinformation campaign is nothing more than an attempt to shut down an open discussion about ways to improve our state universities and make them more effective, accountable, affordable and transparent.
University research is the lifeblood of our state's innovation, medical treatments and job creation. As governor, I have prioritized university research with hundreds of millions of dollars of state-funded grants from the Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) and Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), while putting more Texas universities on the path to Tier One status through the National Research University Fund.
TETF grants, allocated by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker, have funded efforts to attract leading researchers, such as Jan-Ake Gustafsson of Sweden, who is working on biomedical research with the University of Houston; Dr. Mauro Ferrari, who worked on bio-nanotechnology with the University of Texas; Dr. Thea Wilkins, who is working on cotton genomics at Texas Tech; and Dr. Darwin Prockop and his team of more than 70 researchers from Tulane University, who are working with Texas A&M to commercialize 20 existing patent applications and five issued patents for regenerative technologies.
CPRIT, which lawmakers and I authorized and voters approved in 2007, has funded 256 grants totaling more than $382 million for cancer research, commercialization and prevention in 46 academic institutions, non-profit organizations and private companies. More than $500 million, including matching funds, has been invested in Texas' extraordinary efforts to lead the nation in cancer research, with much of that research led by Texas colleges and universities.
In recent years, I have supported and signed legislation putting more Texas schools on the path to Tier One status through the National Research University Fund and the Texas Research Incentive Program, as well as legislation authorizing tuition revenue bonds for the construction of state-of-the-art research facilities, and legislation allowing our universities to retain 100 percent of indirect cost income from research grants and contracts to encourage our institutions of higher education to conduct research.
Placed against this long record of championing hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state-funded university research, the claim that I or university regents I have appointed are against university research is obviously dead wrong and harmful to our state.
Like all Texans should be, I am committed to improving higher education by making our colleges more accessible and affordable; improving accountability and transparency in our schools; improving graduation rates; and making sure taxpayers are getting the most from the schools, teachers and research they help fund.
However, these efforts to protect taxpayers and get more results from our schools are not universally welcomed in academia. The attitude of some in the university world is that students and taxpayers should send more and more money, and then just butt out.
Four-year graduation rates at Texas institutions of higher education currently average just 28.6 percent. Yet between 2003 and 2009, the statewide total academic cost for a student taking 15 semester credit hours increased by 72 percent.
Our knowledge-dependent economy and you - the taxpayer footing the bills - deserve better. Our colleges and universities must always strive for more efficiency, including higher graduation rates and better degree programs that will prepare our students for great jobs and provide them with the skills necessary to compete in a global marketplace.
Legislative and university regent policies are all aimed at making Texas universities more accessible, affordable and accountable, and even better at researching and commercializing medical, scientific and technological breakthroughs to improve Texas jobs and our quality of life.
Public debates about university excellence and accountability are necessary and healthy. But these false claims about university research are damaging our universities and Texas as a whole.
Our state has some of the world's best scientists, medical researchers, and academicians. State leaders and university regents are working hard to strengthen our innovative research and make our universities the epicenter of effective student learning, technology and medical development to create jobs, opportunity and a better quality of life for Texas and the world.