During the past four years, Texas Tech officials, West Texas lawmakers and those in the livestock industry made the case that the state needed a second veterinarian school. With the stroke of his pen earlier this month, Gov. Greg Abbott signed off on state funding of $17.4 million that will allow the university to move ahead on the Texas Tech School of Veterinarian Medicine in Amarillo.
Tech President Lawrence Schovanec says the $90 million vet school brings additional credibility to the university.
"It puts us in a very distinguished class. I believe I've heard Chancellor Mitchell say this on several occasions, that we will now be the ninth system in the United States to have a medical school, a dental school, a law school, a school of pharmacy, a nursing program, as well as a general academic institution. And when you look at that other list, they are very significant systems like Wisconsin, Illinois..."
Schovanec says attention now shifts to filling faculty positions.
"With the support from the legislature, we will now be able to procede with hiring the first cohort. So in these next two years, we need to hire 32 faculty. That's a major challenge, we're going to have to provide extra resources and HR to make sure we can process all of this. The recruitment aspect of this is significant."
The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board still must sign off on the vet school’s degree program once it receives a review from an external committee. Schovanec anticipates the board’s approval will come by late summer or early fall.
He says the university is shooting to open the vet school in fall 2021, meaning the first graduating class would be in 2025, the 100th anniversary of when students began classes at Tech. The inaugural class will have 40 students.
"When it's reached some steady state, and I'm not sure if that second class will be 40 or 60, but the plans are to have 60 in a class."
The effort to open the vet school drew sharp opposition from Texas A&M University, currently the only one in the state. Schovanec says industry groups pushed for it because of a need for large-animal vets. The vet school plans to recruit and enroll students who want to serve in rural and agricultural communities.
"The funding required to operate the vet school was not terribly large, in the context of all that we do. And then you might ask, why all the political anguish for some? The case that really had to be made was to demonstrate the need, that we really would be providing greater opportunities and access."
Over the years, many Texans interested in becoming veterinarians were forced to go out of state or out of country. Schovanec says Texas lawmakers saw a clear need for a second vet school.
The cost for a year at Tech’s vet school will be about $21,000.
"A resident of Texas, enrolled at the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine can anticpate graduating with much less debt than those who go out of state, especially those who go out of Country. The average debt load of one who goes and gets their degree at an international school, primarily the Caribbean come back with $250,000 - 300,000 in debt."
Schovanec says he’s grateful for the support of the city of Amarillo, where its economic development corporation pledged up to $69 million to build the school. Fundraising by Tech continues, which will reduce the corporation’s pledge amount.
He’s also appreciative to many others for making the vet school a reality.
"The establishment of the Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine reflects a broad, broad community effort. And by that I'm talking about our legislators, especially those from the West Texas delegation, the leadership in Austin, Speaker Bonnen was so helpful and we ultimately must acknowledge the support of Lieutenant Governor and the Governor, we're very very grateful for that. You just can't say thank you enough."