Texas Tech Named to Carnegie Listing, But Aims for Top 50 Public Research University
By: Karen Michael
Texas Tech University was one of 131 U.S. universities and 95 public institutions listed in the Very High Research Activity category of the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education in December.
That places Texas Tech firmly in the classification that is often associated with Tier I status – but Texas Tech President Lawrence Schovanec isn't going to be satisfied with the university's continued presence on that list.
"Where do I want to be? Among the top 50 public research universities," Schovanec said.
Both the president and Texas Tech Vice President for Research & Innovation, Joseph A. Heppert, said they are proud the university remained on the list as a Carnegie Very High Research Activity institution.
"I'm proud of the efforts of the faculty, because it's really their work and creativity and excitement and passion about the research that they're performing that has allowed us to rise to this level," Heppert said.
One factor that is slowing down Schovanec's goal of being a top 50 public research university is the number of federal research dollars earned by the university.
To be named to the Center for Measuring University Performance's Top American Research University report, the university needs to have $40 million in federal research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM.
"All forms of support for research need to be valued and celebrated," Heppert said. "I think we need to realize, however, that in terms of nationwide competition for research dollars, and in terms of our ability to grow and sustain the research at Texas Tech, we need to target federal dollars in particular as a critical source to grow our research programs in the future. We want all faculty who require funding to sustain their research programs over their entire career to be successful."
Heppert added that to be successful, many researchers need to compete for federal funding.
According to Schovanec, the Carnegie classification is one of three ways that a university can claim Tier I status. Others include being named to the Association of American Universities or to the Center for Measuring University Performance, which issues the Top American Research University report, or TARU.
The Carnegie classifications were released in December 2018, which included data from 2015-16. The Carnegie classifications use publicly available data to make its determinations, including the number of research or professional doctorates granted each year and the amount of research expenditures made.
Some of that same publicly available data is included in the TARU report for 2017, which was also released in December 2018. It contains data from 2015 and 2016. Texas Tech is listed as 128th among all U.S. universities and 88th among American public universities.
"With regard to Carnegie, here's the story: Tech is in the Carnegie R-1 because of this data, primarily," Schovanec said, indicating the TARU report.
But Texas Tech cannot be considered as one of the Top American Research Universities for the Center for Measuring University Performance, because it requires $40 million in federal STEM research to be considered.
If Texas Tech met that criterion, its status among several other TARU categories could have it shooting onto the top university list. For instance, the university is listed as 48th among public universities due to its endowment assets of $674.6 million, and 43rd for its number of doctorates awarded at 323. In two other categories, postdoctoral appointees and National Merit Scholars, Tech ranks 54th in the nation among public universities.
Many of the universities on TARU's list of the 26-50th universities have only one top 50 score among nine categories that the Center for Measuring University Performance rates. Texas Tech's two top fifty scores would allow the university rocket past eight public schools and three private schools if it met the federal research minimum of $40 million.
Schovanec said it could take some time to get to that point. The 2017 NARU report, which was released in December 2018, includes federal research expenditures from 2015. The 2019 report, which will be released in 2020, he said, will have data in it from 2017. The university already knows its data for 2017 shows that it did not meet the $40 million requirement. At best, if the university met the data this year, it could be in the 2021 TARU report to be released at the end of 2022.
But he said he hopes that by 2025, at the 100th anniversary of Texas Tech's first class, Texas Tech will have the 2023 report on hand that will list it with $40 million in federal research and include the university in the top listings.
"We have two years to get to $40 million," Schovanec said.
The university has made changes that could help it to meet that goal. For instance, this spring, the university should find out if it will be eligible to compete for funds as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. If that occurs, Texas Tech will qualify for new grant programs and may receive special consideration for other federal programs.
Heppert emphasized that while the university wants to see more federal research funding, it also values all research and scholarly activity that goes on in labs, performance venues, and even Texas Tech offices.
"We celebrate all research at Texas Tech University. There are areas of scholarly and creative activity that do not require external funding. We celebrate those areas, too. But we want faculty who require external funding to sustain their career over the long term to understand how to compete for that funding," Heppert said. "One of my goals is to ensure that as faculty build their career, there's no aspiration that they can't achieve here at Texas Tech University."