The Impact of Texas Emerging Research Universities on Student Outcomes
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Title: The Impact of Texas Emerging Research Universities on Student Outcomes. Background: Research and development (R&D) in postsecondary education has impacted policy creation regarding research expenditures. In Texas, the legislature implemented research-based funding programs tied to strategic planning to increase postsecondary research prominence. Research-based funding formulas assign state funds to public institutions based on research expenditures. Emerging research universities, which are budding research institutions, are eligible for these allocations. A primary aim of research-based funding is to increase research productivity and competitiveness and impose accountability through financial incentivization. Texas exemplifies how research incentives intersect efforts to encourage research prestige with those focused on student success and accountability. This study pulls theoretical insights from action theory and institutional isomorphism to understand the outcomes of research-based funding. Purpose: This study investigates whether the emerging research university designation impacts student outcomes as a consequence of research focused behavior and if these impacts align with strategic plans. More specifically, this study examines the extent to which the creation of the emerging research university designation has impacted student admissions and completion patterns at Texas public universities. Methods: This study utilizes individual-level longitudinal student data from the University of Houston Education Research Center and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and difference in difference methodology to examine how students are impacted by research-based indicators. The sample includes 14 Texas public institutions, seven of which were emerging research universities as of 2009. The outcome variables are application action and six-year graduation. The model investigates how research expenditures and other covariates pertaining to student and university demographics impact application actions and six year graduation among institutions participating in the emerging research university policies. Results: Application action indicates whether students are admitted to an institution based on legislative and/or institutional criteria or whether students are admitted through other unspecified criteria. The findings suggest the mean change in the admissions outcome is not different in emerging research and doctoral universities immediately before and after the emerging research policy enactment. There was a difference in the mean change in the admissions outcome five years after the enactment. The graduation outcome examines whether students graduated within six years or more than six years. There was a difference in the mean change in six year graduation immediately after the enactment of the policy, but that difference did not exist five years after its enactment. Conclusion: Emerging research policies impact student outcomes at emerging research universities; while the policy had no immediate impact on application actions, it did have a five year lag impact. There was also an impact on graduation immediately after policy enactment, but not five years later. The findings also demonstrate that the policy impact varies depending on student and institutional characteristics. With institutional collaboration, legislators can create research-based policies that enhance institutional research productivity and impact student outcomes. This study reveals how state government and universities can create and implement policies that coalesce with statewide strategic plans to achieve common goals for student and institutional success.