The Texas Tech campus in El Paso could attract more doctors, get more funding and set its own research agenda if it was a stand alone university, said State Senator Jose Rodriguez.
He's proposing a bill to make the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center and the Paul Foster School of Medicine its own university, instead of a satellite campus.
If it were a separate university, Texas Tech would have its own president and would not have to consult with the flagship campus in Lubbock to determine what research its doctors conduct, said Dr. Manuel De La Rosa, the Health Sciences Center's Dean.
Currently, any research conducted by Texas Tech campuses has to balance the needs of the school's jurisdiction, which spans from Lubbock to El Paso. The main campus focuses on rural and geriatric research and the El Paso satellite campus is more suited to research issues related to border and Hispanic health such as diabetes, infectious diseases and obesity, said De La Rosa.
The El Paso campus is already studying those areas but its doctors could set their own research agendas within those fields if the campus were a university, according to De La Rosa.
The designation would also make the El Paso campus eligible for Health Education Assistance Funds, which are legislatively appropriated moneys meant for health education institutions.
Currently, the entire Texas Tech system is allocated an amount. If the El Paso campus were a University within the system, it would qualify for its own amount, not just what it's getting through the system.
Rodriguez and the El Paso delegation are also fighting for tuition revenue bonds to build another research building at the medical school. It's been a priority for the delegation for three legislative sessions but has failed to happen because of massive budget shortfalls.
Because of a surplus this session, legislators will be issuing tuition revenue bonds, which are secured by a system-wide pledge of all legally available revenues for debt. The bonds are used for infrastructure and capital improvement projects.
Competition for those funds is steep as all of the higher education institutions are applying for them and not all of the projects will be funded.
Texas Tech's El Paso campus is asking for $120 million in tuition revenue bonds; $89 million for a third research building and $30 million for a pediatric pavilion, said De La Rosa.
He remains optimistic the medical school will be awarded the money.
"I think when we first started there was a lack of confidence in El Paso - not necessarily just outside El Paso but inside El Paso too. We've done things that people have said we can't do. There's a grudging respect there what we can achieve," De La Rosa said.