MISSION, RGV – The University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley will face a funding gap after receiving $53.5 million for the School of Medicine in state funding, says its president, Guy Bailey.
The House and Senate approved Senate Bill 1 on Saturday, the $217 billion state budget for 2018-2019 that included funding for the medical school. UTRGV originally requested $70 million in funding for the medical school, but with a tight budget, university officials say they’ll make do with whatever they receive.
“There is still a funding gap we need to make up,” Bailey said. “Last time we had $61 million, and so what is that, about $7 million (less) over the biennium, $3.5 million a year that somehow we have to make up. We are very appreciative of what we got and we want to thank our legislative delegation. Senator Hinojosa, Senator Lucio, and all of our Reps worked really hard.”
Asked what impact the funding gap would make, Bailey said: “It could slow down some of the things. It could slow down the residencies, but we are working hard.”
Bailey pointed out that some cities in the Rio Grande Valley have made a commitment to help fund the School of Medicine. Those cities are McAllen, Edinburg, Pharr, and Mission, along with Hidalgo County. “We are hoping they pay up, that will help close part of that gap. The UT System, we think, will help some as well,” Bailey said.
Veronica Gonzales, vice president for Governmental and Communication Relations at UTRGV, said the funding gap may lead to a trimming of future plans for residency programs and practice plans at the medical school, but other methods of funding can help reach those goals.
“It may slow down some of the development of the residency programs which are really critical for us because we need those residents out there providing medical care,” Gonzales said. “We also are developing a practice plan where our doctors actually practice medicine and bring in revenue for the university, and with more funding of course, you can hire more physicians, but I think we will still get that off the ground.”
Last session, the School of Medicine received $61 million, but with new spending cuts, the university will look for other sources of funding, either through the UT System or the federal government.
“We are continuing to try to secure money from the federal government as well, and then especially through the National Institute of Health and others that help us with healthcare,” Gonzales said.
“As well as looking at the UT System to see if they can assist us with some funds. They have been very helpful in terms of money for buildings and things of that nature, so we’ll continue to work with the UT System and our federal partners.”
The new dean of the medical school, Dr. John Krause, begins July 1, and his expertise can assist the university with the funding gap, Gonzales said.
“The great thing about Dean Krause is that he has experience in all the areas that are most critical to us – research, starting up a practice plan, residency programs, the budgeting issues that medical schools face,” Gonzales said. “There’s so many issues that a medical school has to face aside from just medicine, and he’s got great experience in all those areas so we’re really looking forward to him being here.”
President Bailey agreed. “Dean Krause is a tremendous hire for us. He will be able to help move our practice plan forward in a hurry and as we fast-forward the practice plan, that will help some of the funding issues as well.”
Bailey and Gonzales made their comments following a news conference with Congressman Henry Cuellar at the Mission CEED Building. The news conference was held to announce that UTRGV will receive more than $2.7 million this year, and possibly more than $13.9 million over the next five years, to help high school students prepare for college. The funds come from Upward Bound grants from the U.S. Department of Education, as part of the TRIO Program.
Like President Bailey, Gonzales said she would like to thank the Rio Grande Valley’s legislative delegation for the funding they were able to secure for the medical school. Gonzales is a former Texas House member and so knows all about the legislative process.
“We do really want to thank our delegation. This session has been really tough and they went into bat for us. We are very grateful,” Gonzales said.
Bailey said the university will continue to solve the funding gap and remains optimistic.
“We’re working on ways right now to try to make up that funding gap, and if we’re able to make that funding gap up and I’m hopeful, I don’t think we’ll have any problems,” Bailey said. “We do have some funding challenges right now but we are working hard to try to solve them.”
Editor’s Note: Reporter Apolonio Sandoval, Jr., contributed to this story from Mission, Texas.