EL PASO, Texas - The Texas Tech Health Sciences Center campus in El Paso is one step away from officially becoming a stand-alone university.
The bill was passed by the Texas House of Representatives Tuesday and just needs to be signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry.
"When the governor signs the bill we will have the ability to pick our own president and really sit at the table with the other universities," said Health Sciences Center dean, Dr. Jose Manuel de la Rosa. "(The bill's passage) is just a real vote of confidence... team El Paso really got this done."
S.B. 120 was authored by State Sen. José Rodríguez and sponsored by State Rep. Naomi Gonzalez. The bill was the top legislative priority for the El Paso delegation this legislative session.
"Today represents the culmination of two decades of hard work and close collaboration by our community and the Texas Tech University System," said Rodríguez. "Establishing an independent health sciences university is a key element of our community's educational, health care, and economic development strategies."
"This is a great victory for District 76 and the El Paso region. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center at El Paso as a stand-alone university will help address the specific needs of the population along the El Paso border," said Gonzalez. "The stand-alone will improve access and quality of health care for the El Paso community and region."
the bill establishes TTUHSC at El Paso as an independent health sciences university with its own president and administration, schools with degree-granting authority, and greater local engagement in key hiring and funding decisions.
The move takes on greater significance given its role in regional priorities. It will continue to promote access to health care, attract more doctors and other health care professionals, research diseases that affect Latino and border populations, and spur economic development through its key role in the Medical Center of the Americas.
With well over 3/4 of the Texas State House voting in favor of the bill, Dr. de la Rosa the El Paso campus is now eligible for Health Education Assistance Funds, which are legislatively appropriated moneys meant for health education institutions.
According to Dr. de la Rosa, the El Paso campus is one of 9 centers that have access to those funds, "If it hadn't been for the Margin passage that we had today we would have had to operate without those funds. That is what gives us a seat at the table; more resources, more ability to set our own destiny."