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Veterinary Medical Colleges Hit Hard By
Financial Cuts In Public Support

Washington, D.C. – The nation’s 28 schools and colleges of veterinary medicine (CVMs) have been hit hard by steep reductions in state appropriations to higher education, leading to cuts in faculty, significant tuition increases, and increased student debt, according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) at an economic summit in Orlando, Fla.

MU College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Neil C. Olson recently participated in a joint economic summit between the deans of U.S. schools and colleges of veterinary medicine and the American Veterinary Medical Association. During that summit, the AAVMC reported that cuts in state support for academic veterinary medicine, particularly over the past couple of years, have seriously affected the ability of schools to maintain academic programs and course offerings, as well as hire and retain faculty. CVMs report that they have been unable to fill 120 faculty positions and that state cuts have affected the colleges’ ability to update or maintain campus infrastructure, invest in new technology, and maintain academic programs and course offerings for students.

Tuition at the nation’s schools and colleges of veterinary medicine has nearly doubled over the past decade and now tops an average of $38,000 annually for out-of-state students and $18,000 for in-state students. “Even though tuition has gone up, that revenue barely begins to make up for more than $104 million in state cuts in just the past two years,” said Dr. Gerhardt Schurig, AAVMC president and dean of the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine. “These are challenging times for veterinary medical education and higher education in general. What’s particularly alarming is how schools report that this is affecting their ability to hire and maintain faculty and provide students with the course offerings that they need.”

While tuition has climbed over the past decade, the average amount of institution-provided financial aid remained flat during the same period at about $3,300 annually per student. Students now graduate with a student debt load on average of more than $140,000.

New federal programs allow the students who enroll in them to pay off student loans based upon income within 20 years or — if they work in the nonprofit sector — within 10 years.  However, most graduating veterinarians who enter the workforce navigate to for-profit, private practices that don’t allow for participation in the nonprofit debt forgiveness program but do allow them to work directly with people and pets, which is often what initially attracts students to the practice of veterinary medicine.

“I think we need to fight to sustain and garner public support, but we will also have to start looking at alternative funding sources and educational models if we want to maintain quality,” Dr. Schurig said.  “We also need to work with other stakeholders of academic veterinary medicine to find ways to increase student financial aid.”

In 2011, the AAVMC released “Roadmap for Veterinary Medical Education in the 21st Century: Responsive, Collaborative, Flexible,” a report found at www.aavmc.org/roadmap, that was compiled by the North American Veterinary Medical Education Consortium (NAVMEC). The report recommends that colleges of veterinary medicine provide a cost-effective, quality education through the sharing or educational resources and partner with the AVMA and other stakeholders nationally, internationally, and locally, to develop economically viable approaches to veterinary medical education.

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Last Update: February 24, 2012