UNL inks deal with Iowa State, ends 20 years with KSU


Ames, Iowa — A non-traditional agreement between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Iowa State University (ISU) has students split between schools, and signals the end of a 20-year partnership between UNL and Kansas State University (KSU).

AMES, IOWA — A non-traditional agreement between the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) and Iowa State University (ISU) has students split between schools, and signals the end of a 20-year partnership between UNL and Kansas State University (KSU).

Dr. Steve Waller

Nebraska's students now will obtain a DVM degree from ISU following completion of two years of veterinary school at UNL plus two years at ISU.

UNL currently seeks accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association's Council on Education (CoE), and university officials say they are confident it will be received.

The arrangement benefits all involved, lowering costs for Nebraska's state budget, the university and students, UNL officials say. At the same time, critics question the feasibility of the arrangement, admits Allan Moeller, UNL assistant vice chancellor.

Allan Moeller

"There are 1.7 million people in the state of Nebraska and we cannot afford our own veterinary college, Moeller says. "That is why this agreement looks so attractive — in one sense it is close to having our own veterinary school, without the expense."

To ease accreditation concerns, officials explain the arrangement on UNL's Web site.

"We are attempting to have a preliminary visit by people who have been on the accreditation team in the past in order to address issues on the forefront and address them as soon as possible," says Dr. Steve Waller, dean of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, UNL. "There are some faculty positions that will need to be filled also."

UNL's Web site says the university will receive accreditation along with ISU. The site also says that steps are being taken to have a preliminary evaluation performed and formal accreditation visit within the next few months.

"Although there is no guarantee accreditation will be granted, we are confident it will. Based on conversations with the administrative officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Council of Education. We estimate the accreditation process for the UNL part of the collaborative program will take six to eight months to complete," UNL reports.

Dr. Don Simmons, director of education and research for AVMA, says the request has been made by UNL, but no actions have been taken by the association.

"They have made a request, but the council has not acted at this point," Simmons says. "There is not a scheduled date to visit the university and there isn't any indication at this point that there will be a preliminary evaluation."

A preliminary evaluation is the tip of the iceberg in the accreditation process because it can take years to accomplish, AVMA officials say.

The accreditation process for UNL would be necessary if graduates of the program would have both universities listed on their diplomas, Waller says.

"We would like to have the dual degree at some point, and we must have accreditation in order to do that. We are behind by a few months at this point from the time the information was posted on the Web site."

UNL officials say the UNL and ISU are not interested in a second-rate education for the students, noting that ISU is the oldest public college for veterinary medicine in the United States and has been one of the leading providers of veterinary education in the world.

"The university has been accredited for 124 years and is expecting to make facility renovations to the tune of $80 million to achieve full-accreditation," Moeller says. "Kansas State has also been under limited accreditation in the past."

The first two years students spend at UNL is considered offsite education and is within the ISU curriculum," Waller adds. "For now, Nebraska students that are in Kansas will finish their schooling there, not under the agreement, but on Nebraska's dime," Waller says. "We think it is the right thing to do since the students were under the understanding that they would receive a degree from Kansas when they enrolled."

The 20-year agreement with KSU was severed when Nebraska officials realized its contract with the university was costing the state more than what the budget allowed for.

"We think it will not only provide a quality program for veterinary medicine students but will provide benefits for our graduate programs, such as veterinary science programs at UNL," Moeller says. "The program will cost students less money, and the money that was formerly sent to Kansas can now go toward projects at UNL."

The contract between UNL and KSU expires June 30 — students are expected to begin attending ISU for fall courses.

The veterinary class will in essence be divided, but some students will have the courses and instructors because they will be taught via distance education.

After the contract had been extended three separate times, Moeller says budget restrictions in Nebraska prompted the University to bid — Iowa gave the best offer, according to Moeller, providing benefits for the state of Nebraska, students and the university.

Although the new terms between Nebraska and Iowa are falling under question, Moeller says the two years at one university and finishing two years at another is found more frequently in human medicine and may be the way universities function more commonly in the future.

Moeller predicts more states will look to similar agreements, as budgets grow tighter in order to make things work.

"For now, 25 Nebraska students in the freshman class of 2005 will be enrolling at ISU and staying there a full four years," Waller says. "By the fall of 2006 we hope to begin the freshman class at UNL for their first two years, then have them move on to ISU for their third and fourth years."

KSU College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Ralph Richardson says the lost contract is disappointing for KSU.

"We will continue to work with as many folks as we can maintain strong relationships with the state," Richardson says. "When 25 percent of your student body coming from heartland states like Nebraska and you replace them with students from other parts of the country, the landscape of the college changes."

Moeller says of the UNL synergies:"We hope that many of the students that graduate from this program will return to Nebraska to practice veterinary medicine. The need for large animal veterinarians is great and production animal medicine is anticipated to be offered as a dual degree."

In other news:

North Dakota legislators have submitted HB1397, a tuition assistance bill proposing an agreement with KSU.

"The bill will not run in its original form; the state is trying to find money to support it," says Nancy Kopp, executive director North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association. "I think it will go half as much with up to five students receiving in-state tuition fees. The state would provide a loan for the out-of-state portion. The students would then be required to repay the loan if they do not practice in the state of North Dakota for three years."

KSU has agreed to reserve seats for North Dakota students, Kopp says.

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