DALLAS — Former U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison called for more funding for research universities on Tuesday amid a debate over whether higher education budgets should be cut.
The Republican said federal and state governments should make research universities a priority, calling government funding “the seed corn” for development.
“The federal government is retreating, but they’ve got to set the priorities,” Hutchison said at an event for business and civic leaders at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. She added that if state support for higher education declined further, “pretty soon we’re not going to be able to call them public universities.”
Just under 30 percent of the operating sources for universities come from the state, according to Dominic Chavez, spokesman for the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board.
University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa said in an interview that he was content with the state Legislature’s work this year after lawmakers approved an expansion of the UT system’s medical school to the Rio Grande Valley.
“What we want to do is to continue to put higher ed, and our research universities, front and center,” he said.
He added that universities need to market positive results to those who wish to cut the institutions’ budgets.
“We haven’t been very good at telling our message, or the message has been missed,” Cigarroa said.
Lawmakers and the UT board of regents have been mired in a battle over university research, particularly in the arts and humanities, where critics say money is wasted.