(VIDEO) Each of the four component institutions of the Texas Tech University System conveyed their key legislative priorities during Texas Tech University System Day events.
More than 200 representatives of Red Raider Nation from all over the state descended upon the state capitol today (March 5) for Texas Tech University System Day with a clear message from each of the system's component institutions.
Officials from Texas Tech University, Angelo State University (ASU), the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) and TTUHSC-El Paso visited legislators to convey messages regarding their legislative priorities. Those priorities include the School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, the School of Dental Medicine in El Paso, the TTUHSC Mental Health Institute (TTUMHI), and academic and student enhancement funding for ASU.
"Texas Tech University System Day at the capitol is the one day we have to showcase who we are, and not just as a regional presence in West Texas, but the importance of the system for the entire state," said Dr. Tedd L. Mitchell, chancellor of the TTU System and president of TTUHSC. "We want to make sure lawmakers today understand how thankful we are for their service to the state and their focus on higher education."
In addition to the legislative visits, the TTU System was recognized in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Also, College of Media & Communication professor and retired CEO of the Texas Tech Alumni Association Bill Dean was recognized on the House floor for his contributions to the university, its students and its alumni over more than 40 years leading the association.
TTU System officials, however, can't do this alone. From all corners of the state, alumni of all the component institutions comprised the contingent visiting legislators, helping make the case that the initiatives Texas Tech has set forth are of importance not only to West Texas but the entire state, and the nation, as well.
"One of the things we're looking to do is represent to the state Legislature how important Texas Tech is, how big it is and the impact we have on the State of Texas," said Erin Ramirez, a 2002 Texas Tech graduate who lives in Austin with her husband, also a Texas Tech graduate. "To have all these people here to represent Texas Tech and say, 'We are here, we're strong and we can make a difference,' that's huge to me, especially in this area of the state."
For Texas Tech, its focus centered upon funding for the proposed School of Veterinary Medicine. Texas Tech is asking for a total of $17.4 million from the Legislature, which includes $13.2 million of new funding to go with the $4.2 million funding already designated by the last Legislature.
Currently, the House of Representatives budget includes the full $17.4 million in funding while the Senate bill includes only the original $4.17 million. Texas Tech has raised more than $90 million in non-state funds for construction and infrastructure.
The School of Veterinary Medicine will help revolutionize veterinary services throughout Texas' agricultural communities. It is designed to fulfill a growing need in these communities by shaping the future of veterinary education and enriching the state's agricultural heritage. More Texas students left the state in 2017 to pursue their veterinary education than the number of first-year students enrolled in the state.
Veterinary schools from outside of Texas provided 75 percent of the state's incoming workforce.
Texas Tech president Lawrence Schovanec also is hoping to get legislators to release the $38 million in Texas Research Incentive Program (TRIP) funding.
"We all know this session has historical implications for the Texas Tech University System and, in particular, Texas Tech," Schovanec said. "Whether you're talking about the dental school or the vet school, these will be events that will last way beyond this particular session. That's why we can't be more grateful and appreciative to the alumni who come here and help us make our case."
The School of Dental Medicine in El Paso is making a $20 million request for funding from the current Legislature to go with the $30 million from the Paul F. Foster School of Medicine non-formula funding. Currently, the school has raised more than $31 million in non-state funds. The base budget from the House of Representatives includes $50 million designated for funding the school, while the Senate budget does not.
In 2017, Texas dental schools turned away 69 percent of applicants, forcing them to seek education out of the state or out of the country. Texas dental schools provide 45 percent of the workforce in Texas.
TTUHSC is seeking a development grant of $2.5 million to begin the TTUMHI, a collaboration with Texas Tech to develop programs that address mental health problems. The vision is to formulate a comprehensive model for treatment, care and research at Texas Tech and TTUHSC.
The current House of Representatives budget includes $20 million for the TTUHSC Telemedicine Wellness Intervention Triage and Referral program.
Today, Texas has just one psychiatrist per 13,000 residents. The TTUHMI is partnering with the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute to conduct a needs assessment.
ASU is seeking $5 million in new non-formula funding to support the Freshman College, which helps first-year students with academic support, peer mentoring, learning communities and signature courses.
ASU is experiencing the highest four-year graduation rate in school history. A big part of that is the 4 percent increase in first-year student retention and 3 percent increase in second-year student retention. Funding from the state would continue the program's success and help expand efforts for first-year students and students at risk of dropping out.