Veterinary schools face more funding cuts in 2011
Veterinary colleges have had to cut programs, raise tuition and, in some cases, institute furlough days.
National Report — With state funding decreasing across the board, veterinary colleges have had to cut programs, raise tuition and, in some cases, like at the University of Minnesota, institute furlough days.
Despite these cost-saving measures, Dr. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC), says she doesn't anticipate the situation getting better any time soon.
"This is a national trend," adds Dr. James Lloyd, associate dean for budget, planning and institutional research at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. "There is a dis-investment in higher education."
But before looking at the state of the schools today, Pappaioanou says it is first necessary to look back at the profession's past.
"The profession has changed quite a bit," she says, adding that veterinary medicine was born out of agriculture. "The main role of animals was transportation. When cars were introduced, people wondered why vets were needed."
Food animals then became the focus during the early 1900s through the 1960s, Pappaioanou says.
"There were mixed practices in rural settings. The veterinarians took care of horses, cows, sheep and chickens, and the farmers would say 'while you're here, would you mind looking at the barn cat or the dog?'"
Small-animal practices began cropping up around this time too.
It is also important to discuss the land grant universities established under the Morrill Act in the mid and late 1800s, she said. "Major funds for these universities came from state legislatures."
Fast forward to 2011.
"Veterinary schools are in rough shape," Pappaioanou says. "All of them have suffered. It is very serious. State funding has been cut back."
Schools have taken different steps to make up for the funding deficit—retirement, furloughs, raising tuitions, she adds.
"Schools are even looking at how to decrease energy. They [the schools] are trying to make education more efficient—share curriculum and resources—to decrease the cost."
The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus was closed Dec. 24 through Jan. 2 as a cost-saving measure, according to the College of Veterinary Medicine NewsCalendar. That time off included three furlough days—Dec. 28 to 30—for civil service and bargaining-unit employees. While the school was closed, the heat was turned down. No other furlough days are planned for 2011, according to the University Office of Human Resources.
University of California (UC)-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine also feels the cuts. The entire UC system had furloughs from fall 2009 to August 2010.
The school, which opened in 1948 and currently has 524 students enrolled in the four-year DVM program, 21 master of preventive veterinary medicine students, plus 170 other students pursuing master's or doctorate degrees, cut more than 140 staff positions from 2009 to 2010. The school also streamlined administrative activities, suspended 12 faculty recruitments and left faculty positions open that were vacated by attrition or retirement, says Lynn Narlesky, in the communications department at the school.
"State funding support has been reduced or eliminated from the Office of Public Programs (eliminating that program and shifting some of its tasks to other units), the Center for Comparative Medicine, California Raptor Center, UC Veterinary Medical Center-San Diego, Wildlife Health Center and Bodega Marine Laboratory," Narlesky says, adding that these cuts came on top of reductions the year before.
Residency positions were eliminated in small-animal behavior, clinical pathology, and medicine services and in equine emergency/critical care (fellowship), medicine, reproduction, surgery and ultrasound.
"Current residents will complete their programs, but a graduate student support program was eliminated in 2009," she says.
To combat the decreased state funding, UC-Davis raised tuition for undergraduates and professional school students. The School of Veterinary Medicine is seeking new revenue sources and continues to raise private funds for scholarships, endowed faculty chairs and other purposes to support its teaching, research and service mission, Narlesky says.
"With a new governor and legislators and with the state of California facing an estimated budget deficit of $28 billion, future state funding for higher education is uncertain," she says.
Across the country, Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine also has seen a decrease in state funding over the past couple years.
The school's annual advancement report showed that over the past five years, state appropriations have fallen from 60 percent of the total budget to 51 percent.
"We are anticipating additional cuts in fiscal year 2012," says Ernie Tanoos, assistant dean for finance and administrative services at the school. "Depending on the size of the cuts, preclinical, clinical and research programs could be affected."
Michigan State's Lloyd says the situation has accelerated in Michigan because of the state's economic structure and the failings of the automotive industry.
"We have seen an 18 percent decrease in the base funding from the state over the past three years, and we expect to see another five percent decrease over the next two years," Lloyd says.
The economic situation has forced the school, with approximately 430 DVM students, to look at other sources of revenue.
"This makes development and fundraising that much more important. It makes our clinical services revenue more important," he says. "Tuition becomes a big portion of the pie."
Over the past 10 to 15 years, Lloyd says the school began to shift faculty salaries off the state funding lines in the budget, instead funding them through grants, gifts and clinical services revenue.
According to the Census results released in December 2010, Michigan was the only state to lose population.
"With fewer people, there is obviously a smaller economy," Lloyd says. "As the economy shrinks, it puts extra pressure on things like higher education."
Federal funding sources remain elusive, forcing veterinary schools to continue to rely on state and private funding to keep the schools going, Pappaioanou says.
"There is no department in the federal government related to companion animals," she says. "Public health, food safety, is one of the only ways to get federal funding. To get more for veterinary medical education, we need research and evidence to take to the policy makers that proves companion animals improve the health and welfare of people."