One of Governor Greg Abbott’s first priorities during his governorship could now be on the chopping block. Abbott’s signature higher education project aimed at luring top academic researchers to the state is in danger in the Legislature, where a tight budget is forcing lawmakers to make cuts.
The $40 million program has recruited eleven professors to the state. Matthew Watkins, a higher education reporter for the Texas Tribune, says that the funds go not only to the salaries of the professors, but also towards outfitting research labs and hiring graduate assistants.
“It’s surprisingly not that much unlike recruiting a top football coach to your school. You’ve got to spend some money,” Watkins says.
Proponents of the program argue that the federal research grants that these professors can bring in may offset the expense of it, in addition to the economic activity that research projects sometimes promote.
Republicans in the state legislature disagree about whether these benefits justify the cost.
“You have this situation where tuition at universities is going up and state funding is going down. I think a lot of people are having a hard time justifying that $40 million price tag for the eleven people,” says Watkins.
Watkins says that maintaining the funding for the project may be an uphill battle in the legislature and saving it could come down to Governor Abbott’s influence as a generally popular politician.
Written by Emma Whalen