Texas Tech, Texas A&M clash over proposed new veterinary school

August 11, 2016

Texas Tech claims new school will address statewide veterinarian shortages; Texas A&M disagrees; both claim higher education report in support of position.

"The question of whether Texas is educating and training enough veterinarians to support the state's needs is not new," states a new report by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB). The board has decided to take a closer look at the matter for the first time since 2009-not only to deem whether Texas needs a new veterinary school, but also if workforce needs can support the production of more large animal veterinarians.

Texas A&M University says the report shows that a second veterinary college would be expensive to create and operate and is unnecessary in the state of Texas, especially when Texas A&M is opening a $120 million veterinary teaching complex. “I believe this report bolsters our announcement in January for a judicious expansion of veterinary education, research and undergraduate outreach into several regions of the state through four Texas A&M System universities,” says Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M, in a university release.

In January, Texas A&M announced partnerships with West Texas A&M, Prairie View A&M, Texas A&M University-Kingsville and Tarleton State that would add veterinary faculty and researchers at those universities in order to support the state's agricultural industries while also focusing on increasing the number of successful applicants to veterinary colleges from those regions. Both factors address the two concerns repeated in the new study: increasing the number of underrepresented minority students in veterinary colles and ensuring a supply of large animal veterinarians practicing in the state's rural areas, according to a release from Texas A&M.

Chancellor Robert L. Duncan proposing plans for a new veterinary school (Photo courtesy of Texas Tech). However, Texas Tech University is using statements in the report to support its position that not only is there a shortage of large animal veterinarians in the state, but that Texas Tech should develop a veterinary college because of it. “There is no doubt that there is an existing and growing need for more food animal production veterinarians,” Chancellor Robert Duncan says in a release from Texas Tech. “This situation continues to worsen as Texas faces an aging veterinarian population coupled with more than one-third of its students leaving the state for veterinary medicine education. We are grateful for the Coordinating Board's willingness to consider new approaches to address this critical need and look forward to sharing our unique vision for an innovative, cost-efficient veterinary college.”

Texas Tech says it is creating a program tailored to address specific needs identified by the THECB in a cost-efficient and innovative manner. The new college will enrich the practice of veterinary medicine by producing practice-ready veterinarians who serve and enhance the vibrancy of the rural communities important throughout Texas while at the same time intentionally reducing the cost of education, the release states. 

In the end, the THECB report seems to align more with Texas A&M's stance: “In summary, no new college of veterinary medical education is recommended at this time,” the report states. “However, the need to address the pending shortage of large animal veterinarians could be addressed in a variety of ways.” Among these are suggestions such as funding the Rural Veterinarian Incentive Program authorized under Texas Education Code, creating baccalaureate degree programs in veterinary science that allow a greater scope of practice, and considering a proposal designed to specifically produce large animal veterinarians in an innovative, cost-efficient manner that does not duplicate existing efforts.