President Ricardo Romo delivered his annual State of the University Address on Sept. 3 to a small audience in the HEB University Center Ballroom.
In his speech, he announced several initiatives the university is taking to reach Tier One status. UTSA plans to increase the number of Ph.D. students from 750 to 900 and masters students from 3,300 to 4,500 over the next few years.
In order to achieve this goal, UTSA will have to spend money to produce results.
The UTSA Capital Campaign Committee is one resource that the university uses to fund these initiatives. The university’s goal is to raise $175 million, and they are already 89 percent of the way there.
UTSA also wants to eventually secure $100 million in annual research expenditures. During the 2013 fiscal year UTSA spent just over $50 million on research, which is down from $54 million in 2012 and $56 million in 2011.
During his address, Romo also announced the GoldStar Initiative, which will set aside $40 million to bring 60 new researchers to UTSA over the next four years.
These ambitious goals are all made in the hopes that UTSA will one day reach Tier One status, but many students are unaware of what Tier One even is. The characteristics of a Tier One university are multi-faceted.
Texas currently has only three Tier One universities: the University of Texas at Austin, Texas A&M University and Rice University.
There are many ways that a university can be classified as Tier One, such as annual research grants exceeding $100 million, selective admissions, low student/faculty ratios and competitive faculty salaries. Membership within the American Association of Universities can also denote a university as being “Tier One.”
California has nine Tier One universities, and, in 2009, the Texas legislature devised the National Research University Fund (NRUF) to catch up.
The NRUF effectively established guidelines for UT Arlington, UTSA, UT El Paso, UT Dallas, the University of Houston (UH), Texas Tech University and the University of North Texas to compete for the almost $680 million made available by the fund.
State funds as extensive as these could do great things for UTSA and San Antonio. A Tier One university in San Antonio could drive business growth, create jobs and greatly stimulate the city’s economy. When Michelle Obama launched her Reach Higher education initiative at UTSA last year, former Mayor Julian Castro stated that, “San Antonio can’t become a brain-powered community without UTSA’s continued success.”
But who benefits from Tier One?
In UTSA’s 2013 Strategic Plan for Research, health; security; energy and environment; human and social development; and sustainability were named as goals at which UTSA hopes to excel.
This plan bodes well for students in the College of Sciences and Engineering, but other colleges may fall by the wayside.
Is UTSA the best school for students pursuing an art degree? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean student artists can’t be successful — it just means that they may not have as many opportunities.
It’s debatable whether or not UTSA will even reach Tier One status.
UH has already been notably recognized for research by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, a component to reaching Tier One status. Texas Tech is a much older university and therefore has a larger pool of resources from which to draw. Both of these universities meet NRUF goals and therefore receive state funding.
In only a few short years, UTSA has gone from being everyone’s back-up school to unprecedented growth. UTSA is recruiting more students from the top of their class and turning more students away, and therefore its days of providing easily accessible university education in San Antonio are a thing of the past.
UTSA still has a fighting chance to reach Tier One status, but, for now, the Tier One message serves its greatest purpose by giving donors a goal to rally around. The pursuit of Tier One appeals to our patriotic senses and inspires Roadrunners, regardless of how realistically this goal can be attained.
While UTSA isn’t yet Tier One, it is already a top tier institution. It’s time to realize that UTSA is more than a football team and STEM research.