San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

January 23rd, 2012
Texas State University relishes new status (with video)

President Trauth looks out at the campus of Texas State University. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently reclassified the school as an Emerging Research University. TEXAS TRIBUNE PHOTO by CALLIE RICHMOND


The view of the Texas State University campus from its president’s 10th-floor office windows in San Marcos may be the same as it was last week, but the institution has fundamentally changed.

The difference is a seemingly minor word change in the records held by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. In mid-January, Texas State was classified as an emerging research institution.

Texas State joins seven other public Texas universities that are a step below the research university status held by the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University.

Denise Trauth, Texas State’s president, expects the classification to enhance her university’s reputation and to help recruit students and faculty.

More tangibly, the new classification is a ticket to participate in a race to become the state’s next great public research university.

Though being named a research university brings significant infusions of money, entry into the competition does not guarantee the reward. But Trauth said Texas State had been building momentum for years to reach this point, which she called — quoting Winston Churchill —“the end of the beginning.”

In 2004, Gov. Rick Perry called for the establishment of a statewide accountability system for higher education. As part of the effort, the coordinating board divided institutions into five groups: research, emerging research, doctoral, comprehensive and master’s.

At the time, the categories were deliberately not tied to financing. But that changed five years later, when legislators passed a bill establishing incentive funds meant to create more top-tier universities in the state and restricted eligibility to the emerging research institutions.

Although Texas State had fewer doctoral graduates and smaller annual research expenditures than the original emerging re-search universities, it had higher enrollment, graduation and retention rates than many other schools. “I think we were miscategorized from the beginning,” Trauth said.

This year, the university projects that it will award 78 doctoral degrees, compared with the 15 it conferred six years ago. Doctoral enrollments are up to 404 students — an increase of more than 580 percent in the last decade. Research expenditures in the last fiscal year were about $33.5 million, more than double the amount required to be considered an emerging research university.

Starting in fiscal year 2014, Texas State will be eligible for payouts from a matching-fund program that has already granted more than $80 million to the seven other institutions. If the budget allows legislators to put money back in the program — an open question — it matches only new gifts of at least $100,000. There is fierce competition among the universities for the limited money.

University administrators are adding development officers to help and are working on a strategic plan for further growth.

Even more money awaits campuses that are able to meet the state’s definition of a tier-one university, which requires even higher levels of research output and endowment funds. Trauth said Texas State was still far from meeting those criteria. “It’s going to be a stretch for us to get that far in 10 years, but are we going to push, push, push?” she said. “Absolutely.”

REEVE HAMILTON reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is reprinted here through a news partnership between the Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

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3 thoughts on “Texas State University relishes new status (with video)

  1. Texas State has been a textbook example of *real* growth, through a well thought out, and carefully executed plan. The improvements over the last 20 years are staggering.

    I’m proud to be an alum, and look forward to bigger and better things at the university. If the city could follow that lead, there is no telling what we could become.

  2. Unfortunately, many at the University see San Marcos as a stumbling block and not a partner in growth. Just as many San Marcos natives see Texas State as a nuisance and not the lifeblood of the local economy.

    I sat in Dr Trauth’s office several years back and listened to Larry Teis as he waved his arm toward the windows (indicating the town) and said “This University will never be what it can be as long as it’s in San Marcos” – and one has to look no further than the comments on this site to glean evidence of the locals’ view of the University.

    We are in this together and the longer we refuse to acknowledge that fact, the longer neither the University or the town will truly prosper.

  3. Dano, you’re right, and wrong.

    The two definitely need to work together better than they do. The potential benefit to each would be huge. Fortunately, they have started to show signs of cooperation, but we will have to wait and see what materializes.

    As far as life blood of the economy goes, we are hemorrhaging that life blood. Around 20% of our economy is driven by the university – a significant number, by any standard, but the fact of the matter, is that more than half of the money Texas State pours into the state economy does not stay in San Marcos. This is money left on the table, in my mind. We may not be able to capture it all, but a better relationship with the university could help us to capture some. There’s the potential for up to a 20% increase in our economy. That’s a hell of a shot in the arm.

    To put it a different way, in case you (or anyone) dispute the 20% number as too low, *whatever* the university’s contribution to our economy, the potential is there, to more than DOUBLE that contribution.

    The potential benefits go far beyond economics, though. If more professors lived here in town, there would be more demand for single family housing, which would benefit the neighborhoods. If the city attracted more career employers, more students would see this as a place they want to stay long-term, and the relationship between students and non-students could be much warmer. The university has a history of training teachers, excels in serving Hispanic students, has an abundance of unused scholarship money (millions per year), and has a doctorate program in school improvement. That is a recipe for an exemplary school district, if I ever heard of one.

    Sometimes, it really can be frustrating, to think of what we could be. Hopefully the city and the university will start to recognize more of that potential.

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