Texas Tech Makes A Bet On Rural Vets

Jul 10, 2018

From Texas Standard.

Texas is becoming increasingly urban, but lots of folks still live in the vast rural swathes of the state, as do their animals. That’s why it’s a problem that there’s a big shortage of veterinarians, who want to practice away from the big cities. The solution seemed simple to Texas Tech University – just open a new veterinary school in the Panhandle to get more people trained.

But right now, Texas A&M has the vet school market cornered, and it’s not quite ready to welcome a new kid on the block. Matthew Choi is a reporting fellow for the Texas Tribune, and he’s been following this brewing rivalry.

“What Texas Tech really wants to do is have their actual main campus up in the Panhandle [training vets],” Choi says. Tech believes that just one university providing education for rural veterinarians is not enough to satisfy the state’s needs.  

The City of Amarillo is supportive of the plan, because of the prospect of increased economic and academic activity. However, some incumbent veterinarians are less enthusiastic. Choi says that some don’t want to see a new school open because they fear that an increasing number of vets might saturate the market in cities, while not doing much to help the rural vet shortage. Part of the resistance also has to do with school spirit.

“Almost all of them are A&M grads,” says Choi, referring to Panhandle veterinarians.  “[That] generation almost entirely came from in-state and you know, the only in-state college for veterinary education really is A&M.”

A&M recently opened new vet school facilities in College Station in a bid to increase the number of trainees. Meanwhile, Texas Tech argues that increasing class size at all seriously jeopardizes the quality of instruction. A&M snipes back, saying that accommodating increased class size is no problem at all.

There have been few firm commitments to fund operating costs, or even the construction of a new vet school, though that doesn’t stop the Tech from posting ambitious targets.

“They’re looking at trying to welcome their first class starting in the fall of 2021,” Choi says.  “So they’re really kind of underway. They’re really going for it. And you know, honestly, I don’t really see much reason why it wouldn’t start then.”

Written by Josue Moreno.