Texas A&M, WT Address Real Issue of Veterinary Colleges
Posted August 29, 2016
By Eleanor Green
Dr. Eleanor Green is the Carl B. King dean of
veterinary medicine at the Texas A&M University College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Last Sunday in the Amarillo Globe-News, Texas Tech University
officials expressed their desire for a new veterinary school to
address a "potential" shortage of veterinarians specializing in
large animals and serving rural communities, although the Texas
Higher Education Coordinating Board confirmed in July there is no
need for a second veterinary college.
I thank AGN for the opportunity to explain what Texas A&M
University's College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical
Sciences, and West Texas A&M University, are doing to address
the Panhandle's veterinary needs.
In 2009, when the Coordinating Board urged Texas A&M to
increase enrollment, the Legislature could not pay for the
necessary facilities because of the recession. Instead, Texas
A&M tapped the Permanent University Fund to build a $120
million complex for veterinary education.
This month we opened our new facility and will increase the
entering class to 162 students - tied for the nation's largest.
That's an additional 30 students each year, and we can increase it
to meet future needs. Larger classes are important to the Texas
Panhandle because we are targeting most new seats to address two
needs: More minorities and more students willing to work in rural
areas and with large animals.
Earlier we announced that we are expanding veterinary education,
research and undergraduate outreach at West Texas A&M, Prairie
View A&M, Texas A&M-Kingsville and Tarleton State. All have
unique ties to important agricultural industries, and each school
has significant minority populations.
In May, we hired two experienced professionals to launch Texas
A&M Veterinary Medical Center at WT. Dr. Dee Griffin is
director and Dr. Dan Posey is coordinator of educational programs.
They will collaborate with faculty and students at WT to build a
program meeting the region's veterinary education needs while
serving the livestock industries.
They also will identify promising students and help them pursue
a veterinary education. Our thinking is that mentored WT students
are more likely to return to rural communities after graduation.
Additionally, we can bring more veterinary students to the Texas
Panhandle from other parts of the state, exposing them to
opportunities through externships, summer internships, and
While Tech officials argue they won't duplicate our efforts,
they are asking the Legislature for almost $17 million next year as
a down payment on their proposal - money we could use to ramp up
efforts in the Texas Panhandle and elsewhere for an even broader
That's really the issue: What's the most cost-effective way to
train more rural veterinarians? Of the 6,660 veterinarians in
Texas, only 180 are livestock veterinarians working in rural
areas. As they move toward retirement, how do we meet the livestock
Tech officials said their "innovative" program will focus on
large animal veterinarians without duplicating our efforts. Truth
is, neither accreditation standards, nor economic realities will
To make a living, most rural veterinarians have to treat small
and large animals.
Tech Chancellor Robert Duncan acknowledged to the Texas Tribune:
"Rural vets treat small animals and large animals. Even as a matter
of accreditation, you have to have the broad spectrum of
So where's the innovation? Tech officials propose building a
school without a teaching hospital. Since students have to learn
surgery somewhere, they would outsource it to local clinics and
veterinarians, claiming it's cheaper and will reduce student debt.
Other schools using that method actually prove more expensive, not
less, while Texas A&M is a leader in cost-efficiency.
Texas A&M veterinary students have the second lowest debt
load in the nation, and our tuition and fees are in the bottom
third of U.S. veterinary schools. We achieved that with high
standards. In 2015, our veterinary college was ranked third in the
nation and sixth best in the world.
In effect, Tech is proposing that taxpayers build and pay for
the ongoing cost of a start-up veterinary college under the guise
it can address one state need - more rural veterinarians - without
diverting resources from other veterinary needs. It won't. Our plan
will accomplish what Tech claims to do, plus we will address the
needs of the Texas Panhandle and the rest of the state at a
fraction of the cost.
I understand the lure of Tech's argument about an economic boost
to Amarillo, but the Coordinating Board's July report notes "the
job market for veterinarians may be at or near saturation."
Texas Workforce Commission projects 195 annual openings for
veterinarians in Texas and the Bureau of Labor Statistics is
projecting 2,700 graduates chasing 1,900 openings nationally.
We don't have a shortage of veterinary colleges. We have a
shortage of graduates who want to work in the rural areas. Our
program at WT will address that. It is better to focus on how to
recruit and incentivize students to practice in rural areas than to
saddle taxpayers with the costly overhead of a second veterinary
About The Texas A&M University System
The Texas A&M University System is one of the largest
systems of higher education in the nation, with a budget of $4.2
billion. Through a statewide network of 11 universities, seven
state agencies and a comprehensive health science center, the Texas
A&M System educates more than 140,000 students and makes more
than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and
outreach programs each year. System-wide, research and development
expenditures exceeded $946 million in FY 2015 and helped drive the
Executive Director of Communications
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences
Vice Chancellor for Marketing and Communications
Office of Marketing and Communications
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