On Land and Sea

Chancellor John Sharp: Sharp Solutions Special Announcement

Chancellor John Sharp from The Texas A&M University System

On Land and Sea

Well, I doubt I am beating anyone to the punch here, but just in case, I want to share more interesting news from the Texas A&M University System.

This is that time of the year when those flowers are in full bloom and cars dot the roadsides with families taking pictures with their children and other loved ones. It is a special time of year for all and signals that spring has sprung. Our excellent scientists within Texas A&M AgriLife Research Extension developed a new version of the official flower of our state in 2000 and it is fittingly, maroon. This was a great achievement and this year we are really making news with these flowers.

An online publication in Alabama had a great read about a little fun some Aggies may have had with our friends in Austin.


‘Reverse Updyking:’ Is Texas A&M growing its colors at Texas?

By Mike Herndon

What if Harvey Updyke had planted something instead of destroying the Toomer’s Oaks?

Some believe Texas A&M may have essentially done just that at rival Texas, where genetically modified maroon bluebonnets have been popping up in the flower beds near the school’s famous landmark, the UT Austin Tower.

Markus Hogue, UT-Austin’s program coordinator for irrigation and water conservation, told San Antonio television station KEYE that the patches of maroon flowers will “keep multiplying” and spread.

“It is just a weird coincidence that the only place that we have them on campus that we know of is right by the tower,” Hogue said.

Some Longhorns believe the rival Aggies, whose colors are maroon and white, may be to blame.

“That wouldn’t surprise me,” UT student Carly Lissak told the station. “They can’t bring the competition on the playing fields so they might as well bring it with their green thumb.”

The Texas-Texas A&M football rivalry, which stretches back to 1894, hasn’t been played since 2011, as the Aggies decided to join the SEC in 2012.

Fox Sports Southwest columnist David Ubben called it “the most ‘Aggie’ prank of all-time” and came up with a name for it [in a tweet]: Texas A&M needs to copyright the term “Reverse Updyking” for what it did to UT’s campus.

According to the Texas A&M Department of Horticulture Sciences, the “Texas Maroon” bluebonnet was developed in 2000 and was “the culmination of a lengthy bluebonnet selection effort led by Dr. Jerry Parsons, the original goal of which was to enable the planting of the Texas state flag in red, white, and blue bluebonnets.”

Maroon Bluebonnets at UT

On a separate and more serious note, Texas A&M scientists and researchers are also having a very positive impact on the current oil spill near Galveston and cleanup of oil spills in general.  The following article that appeared in TAMUTimes is a great example of how Aggies are making a difference in the world, from land to sea.

Buoy System is Best of its Kind to Detect Oil Spills

When it comes to state spending and success rates, cost savings, and overall bang-for-your-buck bottom lines, it’s hard to beat Texas A&M University’s TABS buoy system that relays vital information all along the Texas gulf coast.

With support from the Texas General Land Office, Texas A&M researchers have developed the only buoy system of its kind in the United States and one of the few of its kind in the world.  The Texas Automated Buoy System (TABS) supplies critical data allowing modelers to accurately predict the movement of oil spills and provides other current data that helps protect the 367-mile Texas coastline.

Now in its 20th year of operation, the buoy system operated by researchers at the Geochemical and Environmental Research Group (GERG) in the College of Geosciences has proved to be extremely valuable in the fight against oil spill damage.

When two ships collided in the Galveston Bay area several weeks ago, as much as 168,000 gallons of crude oil were soon oozing their way along the Texas coast, threatening pristine wetlands and marshes, the Texas fishing industry and recreational boaters, to name a few.

With the first few hours of an oil spill often being the most critical time, the solar-powered buoys relayed key ocean data such as near-surface currents, wind speeds, water temperature, wave heights and other information that is critical for decision-makers on land who were getting ready to send equipment and men for oil spill cleanup work.  Such data is reported every 30 minutes.

“The buoys have more than paid for themselves many times over,” John Walpert, senior research associate, explains.  “Regarding the oil spill near the Houston Ship Channel recently, we deployed a TABS Responder buoy about 20 miles southwest of Galveston.  The buoy and TABS system did exactly what it was supposed to do – it sent back data, and this is used for decision-making, modeling and projections.

“In the last 12 years alone, they have been used over 50 times for decision-making purposes during spill events and have saved potentially millions of dollars in cleanup costs.  It is the only system in the country supported by a state government with the mandate of helping to protect the coastal environment.

“This system protects the Texas coast better than any other. Any way you look at it, TABS has been a major success story.”

One study shows that the upper Texas coast averages more than 280 oil spills every year, but most of these involve about 100 gallons or less. Still, any spill can mean trouble for marine life, and that’s when the buoys can become lifesavers.

The buoys range in size from seven feet to more than 20 feet in length, each of them floating on the water’s surface.  Prices range from $60,000 to $200,000 each, depending on several factors, among them the amount of sensors on each.

The TABS project is funded by the Texas General Land Office, the state agency that supports the seven core buoys along the Texas coast, while two other buoys located near the Flower Garden Banks – about 100 miles south of the Texas-Louisiana border – are funded by a consortium of oil companies.

“What makes the TABS system so valuable is that the buoys report the state of the ocean at any given moment,” says Steve DiMarco, professor of oceanography who also helps to run and manage the buoys.

“The state of Texas has been very pro-active by using the TABs buoys and all of the information they provide.  They have passed every test with flying colors.”

Walpert says the buoys are updated annually, with many receiving more sensors and advanced technology to improve their data reporting.

“The buoy system has already saved Texas taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Walpert adds, “and they serve as a model for other states that are developing similar buoys to detect pollution and oil spills.”

When the world has a problem (or needs a new flower), Aggies Answer!

Gig ‘em

John Sharp


Sharp Solutions: April 2014 Newsletter

This email is sent to community and business leaders to provide news about the initiatives of The Texas A&M University System by Chancellor John Sharp.
 Chancellor John Sharp from The Texas A&M University System


What you think matters. And as chancellor of The Texas A&M University System, I am committed to staying personally accessible and directly engaged with you and everyone interested in the future of higher education in Texas.

We are doing amazing things at the Texas A&M System. We are educating the next generation of world leaders; developing biomedical and energy technologies that will change global health and the face of the world in which we live; and leading the nation to innovate the cost structure of higher education. And each month we showcase these efforts by highlighting news, events and accomplishments of several A&M System members.

I welcome your input and encourage you to share this newsletter with colleagues and friends so that they too can subscribe, receive regular updates and participate in the issues that will define higher education for generations to come.

Growing Impact

The Texas A&M University System, Texas A&M University, the Health Science Center and other system agencies in the Bryan-College Station area created a $4.42 billion positive economic impact on the local area in 2013, an increase of almost $113 million from 2012 and about double that of a decade ago.

Included in that record economic impact:

  • Annualized average payroll of approximately $889 million for 21,073 employees, including students;
  • Student expenditures of $494 million for food, housing, clothing, recreation and more, from a record enrollment of 50,000-plus on the College Station campus; and
  • Visitor expenditures of an estimated $385 million from Texas A&M athletic events and other campus activities, with an average stay in the community of 2.5 days.

Partnerships with the local cities and county will likely grow those numbers, particularly the enhancement and expansion of Kyle Field.

The A&M System also continues to rank first in the state in research investment. Research totals for Fiscal Year 2013 exceed a record $820 million according to the National Science Foundation. That research often leads to patents and licenses with significant, far-reaching economic benefits not included in local economic estimates.

Texas A&M University also now ranks among the nation’s top fundraising institutions in higher education, public or private, having raised a record $740 million-plus within the past year, over $300 million more than any previous 12-month period. This includes gifts, private grants and contributions to The Association of Former Students, the Texas A&M Foundation, the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation and the 12th Man Foundation. This historic level of support is attributed to the university attracting record numbers of highly qualified students. The institution’s successful entry in the Southeastern Conference is also a factor, along with more Texas A&M graduates reaching career stages where they are able to make larger gifts to their alma mater.

This growing impact, in the local community, in research and in giving back to the next generation of learners, is a testament to the loyalty of our graduates and their respect for all that being an Aggie represents.

Gig ‘em!

Harnessing Big Data

The Texas A&M University System and IBM will leverage the power of big data analytics and high-performance computing for collaborative research dedicated to advances in agriculture, geosciences and engineering. This partnership brings together the best computer scientists and technology in the world to focus on practical solutions to global challenges, such as improving extraction of Earth-based energy resources, facilitating the smart energy grid, accelerating materials development, improving disease identification and tracking in animals and fostering better understanding and monitoring of our global food supplies.IBM will provide the Blue Gene/Q technology, Power and System X servers and General Parallel File Systems Storage Systems. A test of the Blue Gene/Q on campus found that it ran a material sciences problem that previously took weeks to solve in just minutes with much greater analytical depth. 

Locking in Tuition

Beginning in the fall of 2014, incoming undergraduate freshman to Texas A&M University, Texas A&M University at Galveston and the Texas A&M Health Science Center will be offered a single, fixed rate tuition through year four or five, depending on their degree plan and major. This also consolidates all student fees with the locked-in rate. While Texas A&M has historically offered very affordable tuition rates and is less expensive today than many other public, state universities in Texas, this rate guarantee will help students and parents to budget for college and the university to make future decisions based on fixed revenue.

Expanding in Houston

TAMHSC Expanding In HoustonThe Houston campus of the Texas A&M Health Science Center will be expanding in the Texas Medical Center area with future construction of a multidisciplinary research and education building on 2.5 acres adjacent to the TAMHSC Institute for Biosciences and Technology, a research institute that excels at translation innovative discoveries into clinical practice for the benefit of patients.

The Houston expansion will enable even more collaborative research with other acclaimed Texas Medical Center institutions, especially in TAMHSC’s areas of excellence, such as environmental health, cancer prevention through natural products and infectious diseases. The expansion will also provide highly needed educational space for Texas A&M’s medical students and aspiring clinician scientists.

Become involved, join the Chancellor’s Century Council

The Chancellor’s Century Council is a group of individuals interested in the future of Texas higher education who provide the chancellor a means to advance the goals and objectives of The Texas A&M University System. Members participate in various A&M System activities across the state and throughout the nation. There are varying membership levels available. Find out how to join.


The “Sharp’s Solutions” email newsletter is published monthly by the Office of the Chancellor of The Texas A&M University System to inform community and business leaders of the various initiatives of Chancellor John Sharp.

Sharp Solutions: December 2013 Newsletter

 Chancellor John Sharp from The Texas A&M University System

And on earth, peace…good will toward men

More than just a wish for this holiday season, peace on earth is a prayer for this world every day of the year — and a goal for the proposed Texas A&M University-Nazareth, Peace Campus.

In a first for The Texas A&M University System and Israel, the Peace Campus will be located where no other American university has a branch campus, in Nazareth, Israel’s largest Arab city.

Currently, there is a law in Israel that restricts international branch campuses from opening in the country. This law is being changed to allow the Peace Campus to be the sole and exclusive branch campus in Israel.

To be financed entirely with private donations, Texas A&M-Nazareth will offer undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degree programs. It will improve access to education for the underserved Arab population in Israel that represents 20 percent of the population but only 11 percent of higher-education students. But more importantly, it is hoped Peace Campus will help foster understanding and unity among Arab, Jewish and international students and teachers.

Texas A&M University-Nazareth will be our second campus in the Middle East, joining Texas A&M University at Qatar that has offered engineering degrees since 2003.

We are absolutely dedicated to making this one of the finest international universities in the world and open to all. It truly will be a peace university, a university that brings together students from diverse backgrounds in Israel and around the world.

Many thanks to the hardworking staff in Israel and to the Texas A&M University staff that made this possible.

– Gig ‘em!

2013 Animated Holiday Display at the Reed HouseMany thanks to Jeff and Bridgette Trykoski of Frisco, both 1998 graduates of Texas A&M University, for the gift of their time and the generous loan of their 40,000-light display with coordinated patriotic and holiday music that decorates our home in College Station this holiday season. Tours are available until Sunday, Dec. 15th. Watch the video and have yourself a very Aggie Christmas!

Holiday Lights

Funding quantum leaps

A three-year, $10.8 million investment by Texas A&M University-College Station will provide a major boost to multidisciplinary quantum biophotonics research focused on increasing the speed and reliability of cancer diagnosis techniques, revolutionizing the detection of biological and chemical security threats, and more.

Researchers will utilize quantum laser technology developed by the Texas A&M Institute for Quantum Science and Engineering (IQSE). The new funding will allow the campus to invest in other cutting-edge laser-based technology and equipment, and recruit internationally renowned faculty members.

Quantum Biophotonics Research

The research conducted at the IQSE is an example of Texas A&M’s “One Health” movement, an interdisciplinary approach to improving the health of humans, animals, plants and the environment by uniting the efforts of faculty members across academic disciplines, including science, engineering, liberal arts, agriculture, and veterinary medicine and biomedical sciences. For more information, visit http://iqse.tamu.edu/.

Feeding the world

The development of new tools for more efficient water use to meet increasing global food demands is  the goal of the new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Small-scale Irrigation at the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, funded by a five-year, $12.5 million award from the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Using lessons learned in managing the challenges of Texas’ climate and drought, the Innovation Lab which will focus on methods to enhance small-scale irrigation in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana where smallholder farmers rely on scarce water supplies.

The Norman Borlaug Institute is named for Nobel laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug, who led the Green Revolution and is credited with saving the lives of more than a billion people. For more information on fighting global hunger, visit http://borlaug.tamu.edu.

Feeding the World

Sharing the tradition

For many families, A&M is a family tradition — for grandfathers, fathers, sons and daughters. But some students are the first in their family to even go to college, and the transition from high school can be more challenging. That is why Texas A&M System members are focused on ensuring more students find success and share in the family tradition:

  • Texas A&M University-College Station is now a KIPP College Partner. The Knowledge is Power Program is a national network of free, open-enrollment, college preparatory public charter schools primarily serving first-generation college-bound students from low-income families. As a KIPP College Partner, Texas A&M will have access to recruit high-performing students from the KIPP schools in Texas.
  • Texas A&M University-Texarkana is partnering with PEP, the Partner Engage Prepare Project, offering  mentoring and college-readiness programs for sophomore, junior and senior high school students in Texarkana area school districts.

Become involved, join the Chancellor’s Century Council

2014 Annual Meeting
Feb. 20-21, 2014
College Station, Texas

The Chancellor’s Century Council is a group of individuals interested in the future of Texas higher education who provide the chancellor a means to advance the goals and objectives of The Texas A&M University System. Members participate in various A&M System activities across the state and throughout the nation. 2013 – 2014 membership renewal is taking place now and varying membership levels are available. Find out how to join.

The “Sharp’s Solutions” email newsletter is published monthly by the Office of the Chancellor to inform community and business leaders of the various initiatives of The Texas A&M University System.

Sharp Solutions: October/November 2013 Newsletter

Chancellor John Sharp from The Texas A&M University System

The Momentum Continues

I am pleased to forward two more pieces of great news concerning Texas A&M University and The Texas A&M University System — one of which has been near and dear to my heart for a long time.

Today, I joined Gov. Rick Perry, President of Israel, Shimon Peres, Israel Minister of Education, Shay Piron, and other key education and administration officials to formally announce that the Texas A&M System has signed an agreement with the State of Israel to open the first comprehensive university of the first class in Israel.

This is one of the most memorable occasions of my career in public service. It is an opportunity for education to lead the way to peace, and one that we are honored to be a part of. If not for the hard work of many, Texas A&M University at Nazareth – Peace Campus would not be a reality. I’d like to thank Gov. Perry and the Texas A&M System Board of Regents for their support in making this dream come true, and look forward to our continued work with President Peres and Minister Piron.

From left to right: Dr. Avital Stein, Chancellor John Sharp, Israel Minister of Education, Shay Piron, President Shimon Peres, Gov. Rick Perry, and Professor Manuel Trajtenberg.

Secondly, as you know, our former students are known to distinguish themselves in companies wherever they live and work. I know this to be true as well, but the London-based Times Higher Education, has now produced the listing, “Alma Mater Index: Global Executives,” that verifies Aggies are some of the best leaders in the world. That study identifies Texas A&M as having the most global CEOs among any public university in the United States. This is truly a sign of excellence that is nurtured through an education at Texas A&M.

It is certainly a great time to be an Aggie! Gig ‘em!

John Sharp

Underlined text are links to additional information online.

Increasing Excellence: Texas A&M System Accomplishments in the 83rd Session

As you know, every odd-numbered year the Texas Legislature convenes for 140 days. During this time, The Texas A&M University System identifies funding priorities and focuses on measures that support its member institutions, student success and retention, graduation rates and financial resources for faculty, institutions and student financial aid.

The Texas A&M System had its strongest showing in decades during the 83rd regular session. Our staff worked long days and long weeks, communicating the benefits, needs and importance of our member institutions to the Texas Legislature. As such, the regular session culminated in the A&M System securing six of its seven funding priorities.

We sought to enhance the operations of our campuses and the opportunities for students, faculty and staff across our universities and agencies by focusing on increasing formula funding, research funds, financial aid and agency appropriations. Additionally, we sought funding for student support initiatives, the Hazlewood program and the much-publicized tuition revenue bonds.

Member Achievements Awaiting Gov. Perry’s Approval

  • Texas A&M University can now build new corps dorms. With the passage of HB 2892 by Rep. John Raney and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Glenn Hegar, the A&M System Board of Regents may now lease land on the main campus. This bill was critical for the school to renovate the dorms for the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Corps of Cadets.
  • HB 3296, also by Rep. Raney and sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Charles Schwertner, passed. This bill provides additional funding from the Brazos County Hotel Occupancy Tax for the redevelopment of Kyle Field. We appreciate the partnership with the cities and county, and together we look forward to the renovated home of the 12th Man.
  • Texas A&M University-Texarkana and Prairie View A&M University can boast about their future athletic programs, which will be enhanced by the passage of SB 691 by Sen. Kevin Eltife and SB 1145 by Sen. Hegar, both of which put into place the student-approved increases in athletic fees. This funding will increase the level of athletic excellence in our schools, raising student morale and application rates, among other benefits.
  • For over four years, the A&M System has worked to gain access to the Research Development Fund for PVAMU, which supports increased research capacity at eligible institutions. This goal was reached this session with the passage of HB 870 by Rep. Cecil Bell and sponsored by Sen. Hegar. Beginning in 2016, PVAMU will have access to just over $1 million every biennium from this fund, an important compliment to the Chancellor’s Research Initiative funding for the recruitment and hiring of faculty. PVAMU also saw an increase of $2.5 million in the Academic Development Initiative (ADI). This funding allows for an increased number of faculty positions and course offerings.
  • Texas A&M University at Galveston will receive $100,000 each fiscal year for diagnostic testing on oysters for diseases that are transmitted through the consumption of oysters.
  • A&M System universities received new special item funding, including $200,000 for Texas A&M University-Kingsville’s Citrus Center and $1.5 million for their vet tech program, and $1.6 million for Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s engineering program.
  • The Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory received $6 million for debt service to construct a new $50+ million facility to continue operating in support of the livestock, companion animal and public health industries, remain on the cutting edge of veterinary diagnostics and advance diagnostic research, and serve as the backbone of a state, national and global public health biosurveillance system. As such, the A&M System and TVMDL will continue attracting the most highly-sought after experts in agriculture, animal and public health science and bio-security.
  • In total, our agencies received significant increases in funding — Texas A&M agriculture programs received over $52 million more than last biennium and our engineering programs over $15 million more. This funding provides $3 million to Texas A&M AgriLife Research for water resource management, in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension and Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. Additionally, the Texas A&M Forest Service will receive $27.2 million for the wildfire protection plan (heavy equipment and firefighters). AgriLife Extension will receive $2 million for research and education activities related to reversing quail decline, TEES will receive $3 million for a pilot project on power lines and wildfire prevention, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute will be provided $6 million to act as legislative resource support on transportation issues, and $1.5 million will go to the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service for rural fire fighter training. TFS will be reimbursed $161 million for wildfire costs. This is all in addition to other appropriations.

In addition to individual campus and agency successes, the A&M System worked arduously on behalf of higher education across the entire state.

Financial Resources

  • Formula funding: The A&M System worked with the legislature to prioritize base funding for institutions. The Legislature added over $59 million to formula funding for our universities, as well as over $44 million in formula funding for the Texas A&M Health Science Center. Texas A&M University saw the biggest increase of all our universities—$26.4 million more than the previous biennium.
  • Institutional enhancement: The Texas Legislature appropriated an additional $11 million for general institutional enhancements at our regional universities. For many of our institutions, this source of funding helps support faculty salaries and our student success programs through the new EmpowerU initiative.
  • Financial aid: A&M System institutions already have some of the lowest tuition costs in the state, and our members work hard to keep college affordable. The Legislature provided $142 million more in financial aid for students at general academic institutions statewide. The Legislature also restored nearly $120 million in TEXAS Grants, further aiding Texas students.
  • Hazlewood: The A&M System prides itself on being a military-friendly system. Our Veterans Support Office is nationally renowned and our TexVet office is leading the country in innovative veteran support. The Hazlewood program is critical in helping servicemen and women and their dependents access quality education. This session, we worked diligently to communicate with the Legislature about how to make this program more sustainable, ensuring that our military members can continue to access it. The result is $30 million in immediate state relief funds, of which our flagship in College Station is expected to bring in about $7 million. An endowment is also being created by the state and managed by the Comptroller, to help offset future costs of the Hazlewood Act. The program will also be transferred to the Texas Veterans Commission – an agency with which our Veterans Support Office has previously worked.
  • Competitive Knowledge Fund: The Competitive Knowledge Fund is a critical research fund that supports faculty, instructional excellence and research at eligible institutions in Texas. This year, the Legislature added $50.7 million to the fund, of which, Texas A&M University will receive $18.9 million in new funding.

More to be Done
As you read this, we continue working to secure tuition revenue bonds for our campuses. This money is needed for our campuses to keep up with our growing universities or to make much-needed renovations and repairs. The following projects are at stake:

Texas A&M University:
New Biocontainment Research facility
New Music Facility

Tarleton State University:
New Gates Agriculture and Business Building
Midlothian Higher Education Center

Texas A&M International University:
Library renovation and additional instructional and support space
Addition to science center

Texas A&M University-Central Texas:
New health, science, and wellness building

Texas A&M University-Commerce:
New library and technology center

Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi:
New life sciences research building

Texas A&M University-Kingsville:
Music building expansion and renovation to Jones Auditorium

Texas A&M University-San Antonio:
New science and technology building
New central and physical plant

Texas A&M University-Texarkana:
New academic and laboratory learning center

Texas A&M University-Galveston:
New academic building

Prairie View A&M University:
Capital renewal

West Texas A&M University:
New Amarillo center

Texas A&M Health Science Center:
New education center and research building in Dallas
New facilities in Round Rock
New research building in Temple

Promoting University Excellence
On behalf of the A&M System, I extend my thanks to Gov. Perry, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, Speaker Straus and members of the Legislature for their support of higher education and the Texas A&M University System. I believe that many steps were taken over the past 140 days to promote university excellence throughout our universities and other systems and institutions of higher education across the state.

John Sharp

Key Texas A&M System Funding Priorities for the 83rd Legislature

Base/ Formula Funding:  Our highest priority is additional funding for the basic, on-going operations of our general academic institutions, health science center and agencies through the formulas.   The formula funding ensures that our institutions can provide high quality teaching and support services for our growing student populations to prepare them for the workforce.

Tuition Revenue Bonds:  While we are maximizing the use of our existing facilities and expanding online course offerings, the demand for new classrooms, labs and technologies continues to increase.  Additional funding for new facilities and technology is critical in preparing students to compete in a knowledge-based economy. Unfortunately, the state has not been able to provide any additional TRB support since 2006.  With the current low interest rates and construction costs, this is an ideal time to invest in higher education facilities.  We request authorization for our institutions’ tuition revenue bond requests in order to meet the needs of our students and the state.

EmpowerU:  System-wide Student Success Initiative:  University graduates fuel the economic and social growth of the state, and the Texas A&M University System is committed to assuring its students progress to be successful, work-ready graduates.  However, students come to Texas A&M University System institutions with varied and significant needs, creating obstacles to that success.  Collectively, the student success initiatives of the A&M System target challenges faced by our students.  The A&M System requested funding will allow us to not only implement and expand these student success initiatives, but equally important to also track and account for their progress through EmpowerU.

Competitive Knowledge Fund:  The Competitive Knowledge Fund is a key performance-based formula initiative that helps Texas A&M hire and retain high-achieving faculty for teaching and research.  Last session, the Legislature was able to fund the formula so that eligible institutions received $700,000 per $10 million in total research expenditures—a reduction from $1 million for every $10 million in total research expenditures. We request that the Competitive Knowledge Fund formula be funded to provide $1 million for every $10 million in total research expenditures for each qualified institution.

Support for A&M Agencies:  Our A&M Agencies need base funding support much in the same manner as the formulas that provide basic, on-going support for the academics and health related institutions.  Additionally, the A&M Agencies have a number of exceptional items that address a broad range of state needs:  infrastructure (transportation and water), emergency response, and public and animal health.

Student Financial Aid:  Increased support for student financial aid is vitally important for our students and families, and we support increased funding for state financial aid programs, especially TEXAS Grants.

Hazlewood:  The existing Hazlewood exemption and the expanded Hazlewood Act, which provides tuition exemptions for the dependents of military veterans, have dramatically increased since 2009.  We believe this worthwhile expense is an obligation of the state, rather than an expense to be transferred and absorbed through other students’ tuition and fee payments.

Sharp Solutions: Filling the Higher Education Gap in Texas

An investment in our higher education system is an investment in our economy, benefiting our students, our state and the nation. But the facts are clear. There is a higher education gap in Texas that must be filled.

The unemployment rate today for adults with only a high school diploma is more than double the rate for those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. And those with a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn 84 percent more on average over their lifetime. But between now and 2018, Texas will need to fill about 4 million jobs of which more than 2 million will require college credentials. Yet only 31.4 percent of Texans age 25 and older have completed an associate’s degree or higher.

The future demands more from all of us. We must work harder to provide affordable degree plans offering the academic preparation, and career and technology training that employers demand and that students need for economic opportunity.

There is good news for Texas: enrollment is up at both two- and four-year public colleges and universities. In fact, enrollment in Texas community colleges has increased almost 30 percent since the start of the recession in 2008.

We are making progress, but obstacles still exist in Texas higher education. Young Hispanics continue to be underrepresented, economically disadvantaged high school graduates are less likely to enroll in college, and four-year college completion rates lag.

Virtually every university in Texas and across the nation is looking for new ways to deliver more value and to ensure multiple pathways to learning. There is no one-size-fits-all system of higher education, but The Texas A&M University System is leading the way with innovative and collaborative methods to control costs while improving the quality of education provided.

Though a unique partnership of Texas A&M System colleges and area community colleges, three new affordable degree programs will be offered beginning at $9,800. These programs include a Bachelor of Science in business administration from Tarleton State University, a Bachelor of Applied Sciences in organizational leadership offered through a partnership of Texas A&M University–Commerce and South Texas College, and a Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences in information technology with an emphasis on information security offered through Texas A&M University–San Antonio and Alamo Colleges.

These new degree programs target the needs of employers while leveraging the resources of each partnering college to create seamless pathways to an affordable degree. Success will be measured by the value created in terms of economic opportunities for our students and our state. And these degree programs are only the first of many steps.

As public educators, we have accountability to students, parents, taxpayers and employers. Higher education must be focused on accessibility, affordability and adaptability to fill the gap. The openness to new ideas starts at the top with administrators and flows down to individual students and classrooms. At the Texas A&M System, we are listening.

The Texas A&M System has enormous potential to achieve sustained greatness as one of the premier public university systems in the nation — and in the world. Our flagship, Texas A&M University, already stands among the nation’s top research universities for total research expenditures and is the only Texas institution of higher education listed in the National Science Foundation’s top 20.

It is our mission to expand that reputation and deliver the most accessible, the most affordable and the most adaptable higher education solutions to meet the needs of Texas students and employers for years to come.