Texas Tech is the largest university in the western two-thirds of the state, and its footprint looks to be growing. There are 17 campuses across the system, including one in Seville, Spain, and the soon-to-opened one in Costa Rica. But two other projects – a dental school in El Paso and a vet school in Amarillo -- are also in the works.
“I see Texas Tech moving in the forefront of those two areas of innovative new ideas of how to deliver those educational opportunities,” Texas Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan says. According to him, work is ongoing to grow the System. Feasibility efforts are currently under way for dental and vet schools. And if all goes according to plan, the dental and vet schools could be open by 2021.
“You’re getting the first graduating class at the first vet school at or around the 100th anniversary of the university,” Duncan says. “Same with the dental school.”
A dental school in El Paso could alleviate a big deficit. The border city currently has 172 dentists for about 860,000 people. That’s one for every 5,000 residents, compared to the state’s average of one dentist for every 2,600 Texans.
The full cost of the Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine, is about $74 million. The Hunt Family Foundation has given a $25 million gift and another foundation has given a $6 million grant. State lawmakers set aside $8 million to do the feasibility study.
Three other Tech schools already call El Paso home: the schools of medicine, nursing and graduate biomedical science.
The vet school, which would need about $90 million in private funding, would be on the Amarillo campus of the Tech Health Sciences Center. The city of Amarillo has endorsed a $15 million sales tax rebate for the school.
The plan has leaped a few hurdles, including objections from the state’s lone vet school at Texas A&M University in College Station. Its vet school is ranked No. 10 in the world and No. 4 in the United States.
“It’s not that we’re trying to compete with A&M,” Duncan says. “What our goal is to provide a meaningful and innovative opportunity to solve this kind of shortage problem.”
Duncan says the need for a vet school is clear. Out of 6,660 practicing veterinarians in Texas, 46 percent are 60 or older and only 180 focus on large livestock animals. Couple that with the high concentration of commercial dairy farms and beef cattle feedlots in the Panhandle.
He has said the vet school is “crucial to the foundations of our economy, the vibrancy of our communities and the safety of our food supply.”
“We’ve got to use the money that the legislature gave us to look at the business model, to look at the academic model and to be able to demonstrate that this model will address that shortage and also address the cost issues that are out there for education. We believe the model that we’re using does that,” he says. “So we think that’s going to be successful. I’m very excited about inventing something new. When you start from the beginning, you can create and design a program that will fit the needs.”
Texas Tech is also adding another campus outside the U.S. The ribbon-cutting for the seven-story building in Costa Rica is set for March. Classes will begin there in September. The campus will be adorned with the same Texas Tech seal that leads into Lubbock’s campus off of Broadway.
The Costa Rica campus will be completely self-sustaining and self-supported through revenue generated by student enrollment and revenues collected from Promerica Group.
“It’s a unique opportunity for our university to provide the signature educational experience for students in Costa Rica, as well as our students who want to study abroad,” he explains.