(a) The board shall administer this section to encourage and assist general academic teaching institutions, other than public state colleges, that are not research universities or emerging research universities according to the institutional groupings under the board's higher education accountability system to develop and maintain specific programs or fields of study of the highest national rank or recognition for that type of program or field.
(b) To assist the institution in achieving the highest national rank or recognition for the applicable degree program and from money available for the purpose, the board shall award incentive grants to general academic teaching institutions described by Subsection (a) that the board considers to have demonstrated the greatest commitment to success in developing or improving, consistent with the mission of the institution, the quality of an existing degree program designated by the institution. An institution must use a grant under this subsection for faculty recruitment or other faculty support with respect to the designated degree program for which the grant is awarded, including establishment of endowed faculty positions or enhancement of faculty compensation as considered appropriate by the institution.
(c) An institution may designate only one degree program at a time for consideration for new funding under Subsection (b). The institution may change its designation with the consent of the board. If the board determines that an institution has met all the applicable benchmarks for the institution's designated program, the institution may designate another degree program for consideration for new funding under Subsection (b).
(d) The board shall establish a series of benchmarks applicable to each degree program designated by an institution under this section. The institution becomes eligible for funding under Subsection (b) for each benchmark the board determines that the institution has met. The board shall establish the amount of funding for each benchmark met in a manner that provides an effective incentive to assist the institution to continue its efforts to meet the remaining benchmarks for its designated program.
(e) Unless the board determines that a different number of benchmarks is appropriate, the board shall establish three benchmarks for each designated degree program. The board shall identify one or more persons who have relevant expertise and do not reside in this state to assist the board in establishing the benchmarks and associated funding levels for each type of degree program designated by an institution under this section.
(f) An institution that designates a degree program to receive funding under Subsection (b) shall reimburse the board for the costs incurred by the board in administering this section with respect to the institution's designated program.
(g) In addition to supporting the programs designated by institutions for consideration to receive incentive grants under Subsection (b), from money available for the purpose, the board shall provide additional money as the board determines appropriate to assist the institutions described by Subsection (a) in maintaining the excellence of programs or fields of study that have achieved the highest national ranking or recognition for that type of program or field.
(h) The legislature may not appropriate money for grants or other financial assistance to general academic teaching institutions under this section before the board certifies that one or more institutions have met at least one of the benchmarks established by the board for the institutions' designated degree programs under Subsection (d).
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