(TNS) — Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law Thursday to end Rick Perry’s long-touted — but highly criticized — Emerging Technology Fund, replacing it with an initiative to attract Nobel laureates and other world-renowned researchers to Texas universities.
The move highlighted key differences on higher education between Abbott and his predecessor.
Abbott made higher education research initiatives one of his five emergency items in the legislative session that ended this week, a goal that won praise from faculty and leadership at the University of Texas System. That stood in stark contrast to the higher education initiatives that Perry pushed, which were highly unpopular among UT faculty and officials.
“We want to elevate the higher education colleges and universities in the state of Texas to be ranked No. 1 in the United States of America,” Abbott said. “We are on a pathway toward that lofty goal.”
Perry prompted the Legislature to create the technology fund a decade ago to promote high-tech startups. It has allocated more than $400 million to companies and universities. But a 2011 report by the state auditor found that the program lacked transparency and that the state had not properly tracked its performance.
Under the bill Abbott signed Thursday, the fund would be abolished and replaced with the Governor’s University Research Initiative, which will receive a relatively modest $40 million from the state budget. Its mission is to attract top-notch researchers to Texas public schools.
The Legislature dedicated more than $400 million to research at public universities in the next budget and increased formula funding to all schools. In all, the state’s universities and colleges would have access to $4 billion more than in the previous session, Abbott said.
The UT System has put about $300 million into similar research efforts, Chancellor Bill McRaven said.
“Now you couple that with what the governor is doing in terms of the half a billion the state is funding, it becomes a great avenue to recruit magnificent scholars and physicians and other faculty,” McRaven said.
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