Citing student demand and growing industry needs, the Texas Tech University System announced Friday that it will seek to open a veterinary medicine school in the coming years.
If successful, the new school would be the state's second, but the Tech system will need approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and funding from the Legislature to move ahead. And it may have to ward off resistance from the one university that already has a vet school: Texas A&M.
“Addressing the veterinary education needs in Texas is crucial not only because of the region’s and state’s deep-rooted history with agriculture and ranching but also because of its continued prosperity,” said Tech Chancellor Robert L. Duncan.
Details of Tech’s plans are scant. System officials said they don’t know where it would be located, although they said Amarillo is a promising site. No targeted opening date has been disclosed.
But Tech officials said they are a natural choice to create a new vet school, given their flagship university’s prominence in the ranch lands of West Texas and its leadership in agricultural and livestock research.
“Being in West Texas, where most of the state’s and nation’s livestock are concentrated, we understand the importance of veterinary medicine and see the industry’s needs firsthand,” said Michael Galyean, dean of Tech’s College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
The news will likely be greeted with glee by the hundreds, if not thousands, of Texas undergraduates seeking careers as veterinarians. Texas Tech said it alone has 150 students on a pre-veterinary medicine track. But spots in veterinary schools in Texas and across the national are limited, and competition is fierce.
A&M officials seemed less excited, and they hinted at another looming higher education turf battle in Texas. Their vet school has been around since 1916 and is considered one of the country's best. It’s known both for producing most of the state's veterinarians and for its research. The school claims to be responsible for the first-ever cloning of a calf, pig, goat and deer.
After Tech’s announcement, A&M System Chancellor John Sharp seemed to hint in a statement that A&M was considering expanding its school to other areas in the state.
“As a courtesy, last weekend I informed Chancellor Robert Duncan that the Texas A&M School of Veterinary Medicine would soon announce a presence in several Texas A&M System schools,” Sharp said. “In response, Mr. Duncan comes up with this long-rejected claim we should fund a vet school at Texas Tech. The Coordinating Board has specifically rejected the notion. The Legislature has rejected this for 40 years. We will proceed with our announcement as planned.”
Sharp didn’t list the universities where the expanded presence would exist. But the A&M system includes Tarleton State in Stephenville and West Texas A&M in Canyon. West Texas A&M is also building a presence in Amarillo.
Two other university systems in Texas have shown how political plans for new schools or campuses can be. The University of Texas System enraged many supporters of the University of Houston in recent weeks when it announced plans to open some kind of campus in the state’s biggest city. Some university leaders and lawmakers in Houston have called that an encroachment and have begun lobbying for the UT System’s plans to be blocked.
Correction: This story originally misstated the location of Tarleton State University. It's in Stephenville.
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