Veterinary schools work to grow scholarship endowments


But increasing tuition, class sizes keep funds per student virtually unchanged.

Click to see larger. Infographic courtesy of AAVMC.For nearly all veterinary students who will be taking on upwards of $100,000 of student debt-no match for the seemingly paltry salaries of young veterinarians-leaders in academia believe scholarships may be the only way to bring down the increasing cost of veterinary education.

Executive Director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) Andrew Maccabe, DVM, MPH, JD, says the cost of delivering a high-quality veterinary education is not going to decrease. At the same time, earning power for recent graduates, and their ability to repay educational debt, are not likely to quickly increase. “Given these realities, developing increased support for student scholarships is one of the most powerful strategies we have for addressing the educational debt problems facing academic veterinary medicine,” he says.

Recent announcements from a handful of veterinary schools-the University of Florida (UF), University of Missouri (MU), North Carolina State University and University of Pennsylvania, to name a few-suggest that universities are acting on that strategy. UF recently launched the Dean's Scholarship Initiative, which aims to increase scholarship amounts annually by tenfold, eventually awarding $5 million in scholarships each year. Within 10 years, the college expects to be subsidizing 50 percent of in-state veterinary students' tuition with scholarship funds. 

MU's College of Veterinary Medicine recently received $2.5 million for scholarship endowment. NC State announced a $16 million donation from the Randall B. Terry Charitable Foundation that allocates $8 million to scholarships. “This will more than double the college's student scholarship endowment, ensuring that the top prospects in the nation can learn and thrive at NC State,” NC State spokesperson David Green told dvm360.

This spring, Penn Vet launched the Commonwealth One Health Scholarship, which supports students with a passion for food animal medicine. “We saw this as a great way to support Pennsylvanians who want to work on Pennsylvania farm animals,” says Dean Joan Hendricks, VMD, PhD. The scholarship provides full tuition for four years and was awarded to two students in the class of 2019.

Administrators of the country's veterinary schools realize the price of admission into even a beloved profession is a real barrier for some students. Some of the best and brightest may be choosing not to take on the financial challenges of becoming veterinarians. “The average starting salaries for veterinarians have not kept pace with the costs of providing a veterinary education,” says MU spokesperson Tracey Berry. “The more we can offer our students in scholarship support, the more they can minimize their student loan obligations.”

Scholarship stalemate

Maccabe says AAVMC data shows funds raised for scholarships have been increasing over the last decade, but the funds available per student has stayed constant because of the corresponding and steady increase in class sizes. According to AAVMC data, in 2013, average scholarship support per student was $4,252. That's less than it was in 2004. Within that decade, average tuition also increased more than $10,000 for out-of-state students and more than $7,000 for in-state students.

According to AVMA data, 53 percent of 2013 veterinary college graduates went into private clinical practice with the majority working in companion-animal-exclusive practice with a starting salary of $69, 712. Many other graduates-44 percent-went into advanced education in 2013. The majority took internships with an average starting salary of $28,988.

Yet Maccabe is encouraged that colleges are increasing efforts to increase scholarship endowment. He says the AAVMC's latest data shows the average scholarship endowment is about $45 million-the largest being $187 million, the smallest about $7 million. “We applaud the work our member institutions are doing in this area,” Maccabe says. “Developing more philanthropic support for scholarships is critical and we hope to see this vital work become even more fruitful.” 

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