Tuition hikes sting veterinary students


NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinary students need to factor educational increases into long-term financial plans. Rising tuition costs usually mean decreased spending limits and increased debt load, experts say.

NATIONAL REPORT — Veterinary students need to factor educational increases into long-term financial plans. Rising tuition costs usually mean decreased spending limits and increased debt load, experts say.

The U.S. average annual tuition rate for 2004-2005 resident veterinary students reached $14,245 and $29,857 for non-residents, according to a survey of the 28 veterinary schools.

In 2000-2001, the resident rate was $10,179, and non-residents paid $20,857, showing an increase of 40 percent in five years, says Dr. Andrew Maccabe, associate executive director, Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).

"We know tuition fees are an obstacle for some students to attend veterinary school, but considering appropriations account for more than $16 million for each public veterinary school annually, funding for the schools isn't coming primarily through tuition," Maccabe says. "As high as tuition may seem, it doesn't nearly cover the cost of education."

Since veterinary schools do not have a high number of enrollment, tuition increases do not account for a large portion of a university's incoming funds, says Sandra Harbison, media relations, University of Tennessee (UT) College of Veterinary Medicine.

"In 2005, 47.5 percent of the CVM's funding came from the state," Harbison says.

Administrators' tasks

As state and federal funds become harder to secure, college administrators search for scholarships and extra-mural funds to defray educational costs and concerns for students. Joyce Bohr, academic affairs, Virginia Tech, says the university's veterinary school tuition typically is increases at the same time undergraduate fees go up.

During the past six years, in-state tuition at UT increased on an annual basis, Harbison adds.

"On average the tuition went up 11. 2 percent for in state students and 12.95 percent for non-residents combining six years of data at UT," she says. "In-state tuition was below our peer average for 2005, with about 52.5 percent generated from tuition, donations, clinics and research combined."

Iowa State University (ISU) College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) requested a 16-percent tuition increase for residents and a 12-percent increase for nonresidents.

The spike would increase resident tuition by almost $2,000 a year and nonresidents by more than $3,600 annually.

Current resident tuition at the state's veterinary school is $12,692 for two semesters.

Non-residents pay $31,277 for the first three years of veterinary school. Year four commands a lower fee.

"Tuition increase is never something veterinary schools want to do, but after a careful analysis of tuition in comparison with other colleges, we found the increase would not be out of line with other schools' fees," says Dr. John Thomson, dean of ISU's veterinary program.

Thomson defines tuition hikes as a necessary evil to continually improve curriculum, faculty and hospitals, including a planned addition to the CVM teaching hospital.

The Iowa Board of Regents approved $51.8 million for Phase I of the project and $13 million for Phase II, Thomson says.

Other institutions contacted by DVM Newsmagazine did not have tuition data for the 2005-2006 academic year at presstime.

Preparation is key

Students often get loan information from the Internet, says Susan Fischer, financial aid director, University of Wisconsin Madison School of Veterinary Medicine (UW).

"We tell students to contact their lenders before graduating and even sit down and talk to them to consider what the best repayment policy is for them," Fischer says. "Consolidation isn't always the best option."

Of the 74 students, 69 had debt, with the average reaching $88,700. The debt load ranged from $21,000 to $176,000, according to Fischer.

"Students typically do not come to our office asking us to talk them out of taking out loans. They are coming here to ask us for more money," Fischer says. "The best advice I can give to professional students is to really consider the types of loans you are taking out and if you absolutely have to have each loan being applied for."

Mary Condon, a UW financial aid counselor, consults with veterinary students on average costs associated with boarding, books, education and fees. She also helps students work out budgets.

"I tell students to consider what their average earning rate will be once they graduate in comparison to what the average student debt will be upon graduation," Condon says.

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