LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Texas Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan held a news conference on Tuesday to discuss plans for a veterinary school in Amarillo.
Duncan explained that although money has been allocated in the recent state budget, this was money for the planning of the project, not full funding for the project itself, which will require extensive support from industry leaders and the city of Amarillo.
"I want to be clear, this is a planning grant. It is not a vet school opening in Amarillo."
Chancellor Duncan says there is a lot of work still to be done in the planning process for the Texas Tech Veterinary School of Medicine.
Duncan said the first order of business will be addressing the financial challenges that come with starting a vet school.
Infrastructure cost is the first challenge. The initial projections were about $80 to $90 million.
Duncan said that is a challenge, but also an opportunity, as it relates to the philanthropic investment.
"We'll certainly work hard to identify and hopefully get some commitments for philanthropic investments in this program," Duncan said.
Philanthropy has always played an important role in the Tech System, and this will be no different. This model has played a significant role in other professional schools Tech has across the state. The Chancellor pointed to the role large gifts have played in establishing dental school and nursing school campuses in El Paso and Odessa.
The Amarillo Economic Development Corporation has made a $15 million commitment. Duncan described this as a good start, but more will be needed.
The university will now look for innovative ways to raise money from the Amarillo community. Texas Tech will also be looking for help from the beef and dairy industries.
"You go statewide, you talk to people who understand the shortages and the need to get more young vets in the pipeline that want to work in these areas."
The other financial challenge will be operational money. They also want to be able to have scholarships, endowments for scholarships, and endowments for professors and research opportunities.
One of the objections that has been raised is that it is possible that the cost of operation would have to come from undergraduate tuition. Duncan said their aim is to not subsidize this program.
"Our goal would be to make it stand on its own," he said.
Duncan talked about the difference between the veterinary school conceived by Texas Tech compared to the other roughly three dozen vet schools across the country.
"They use a traditional model," Duncan said.
Tech has proposed a distributed model similar to that used by the University of Calgary.
This model, which bypasses the teaching hospital and instead sends its students into the field to work under supervision, would allow the university to avoid the high costs of building and operating a teaching hospital while putting students in more real world situations.
Duncan said the proposal had met with the initial approval of the Higher Education Coordinating Board.
Duncan took several opportunities to praise his board of regents for its oversight and the high academic and financial standards it sets.
"Our board has always required due diligence on any project," he said.
Duncan said that is what the next two years is all about.
Even some of the expenditures of the $4.1 million appropriated by the 85th Legislature will have to be approved by the board of regents.
Tech will hire consultants to assist in the study. Those have to be approved by the board as well as some other expenditures, "depending on university policy," said Duncan.
And while it appears there is still much to be done before we see a Texas Tech vet school open in Amarillo, Duncan believes this is a good start for the Texas Tech University System.
"I think that there's a recognized need and the legislature has given us the resources to be able to see what we can do to solve that problem."