The governor’s signature officially authorized The University of Texas at Tyler to establish a four-year pharmacy school program, officials announced.
Gov. Rick Perry’s signature to make Senate Bill 566 law now moves the process to the school’s Board of Regents, which must approve establishment of the program.
SB 566 authorizes the university to create the seventh such program in the state.
The school is a joint proposal from the university and UT Health Northeast and will supply a workforce in high demand, UT Tyler President Dr. Rodney Mabry said.
Employers, business leaders, surrounding universities and colleges, professional groups and regional legislators put their support behind the bill during the recent legislative session.
Mabry said local hospital systems and retailers struggle to find pharmacists who want to make East Texas their home. Establishing the school will draw students to Tyler and give opportunity for local students to follow the degree plan close to home, Mabry said.
“UT Tyler learned from our businesses and hospitals that we face a dire need for pharmacists, especially in the East Texas region,” he said in a statement. “With our track record of quickly establishing successful health care programs, it was a perfect fit for the university, the community and state as a whole.”
In 2005, state legislators and the governor approved creation of the university’s nursing and doctorate programs.
More than 3,000 students applied for 600 slots within the state’s six pharmacy schools last year.
The program will be funded by philanthropic gifts and tuition generated from 100 student slots. Mabry said creation of the program likely would require a new building, hiring faculty and staff and a pharmacy college dean. A 40,000-square-foot, $16 million to $20 million facility, to be paid for via voter-approved bonds, is planned, he said.
Sen. Kevin Eltife, R-Tyler, who sponsored the bill, said the program would add another facet in Tyler’s growing health care industry and meet employer needs.
“As the health care hub of East Texas, we must make sure that our workforce has the training necessary to provide second-to-none care,” he said in a statement. “The self-supporting pharmacy school at UT Tyler provides a conservative, market-based approach to solve a challenge facing our community.”
Eltife authored the bill and navigated it through the session. Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville, co-authored the bill, and Rep. Travis Clardy, R-Nacogdoches, sponsored the bill in the House along with nine East Texas delegates as co-sponsors.
Mabry said UT Tyler will formally begin the accreditation process and plans to enroll its first class of pharmacist students in fall 2015.