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Veterinary Report
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Fall 1998 Vol.22 No.4
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Dr. Ted Valli(picture)

  Commitment to Veterinary Profession
Calls for Love–and Money

by Dr. Ted Valli

"Estimated expenses for students in the College of Veterinary Medicine, exclusive of such variable items as clothing, railway fare and recreation, are tabulated below."

So stated the very first announcement of the veterinary curriculum at the University of Illinois, issued in the spring of 1948. The budget shown here covers expenses for the full academic year. (I wonder if any students today mail their laundry home!)

This issue of Veterinary Report catches two of the 24 men who enrolled in that first class reminiscing about their education (see page 4). Drs. Bob Latham and John Baker are still practicing veterinary medicine together in Erie, Illinois. Fifty years ago, they paid in-state tuition of $80 a year. But get ready for a shocker: Illinois residents today pay nearly 100 times that amount, and students from out-of-state pay about $21,500.

The cost of a veterinary medical education has soared. Veterinary teaching programs are costly because of the need for animals and for cutting-edge technology and resources in the laboratories and clinics. The faculty-to-student ratio is much lower than in other professional programs.

In consequence, our 1997 graduating class had, on average, a debt load of more than $45,000, including debts incurred during their undergraduate education. Eleven students that year graduated debt free, but among the 68 others, debt ranged from $5,000 to over $80,000. And starting salaries averaged $35,000.

Hit by budget constraints from campus in 1990, the College has had to take measures to remain fiscally sound. We’ve increased the DVM class size from 90 to 100. We’ve tightened a tuition waiver program that once extended to a quarter of DVM students and now is focused on those in the combined DVM/Ph.D. program. We’ve also had to raise tuition.

Still, the College receives only $2.5 million in tuition dollars, which, along with $11.6 million, makes up all the funds we receive from the state. Currently the College spends $27 million per year in support of all aspects of our teaching, research, and service mission. The non-state funds are generated through competitive research grants (primarily from the National Institutes of Health) and our service programs.

Outside funding for research in FY98 for the first time exceeded $6 million. The Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital generated $6 million, and the Laboratories for Veterinary Diagnostic Medicine generated $700,000. (Our teaching hospital, in fact, is one of very few at veterinary colleges nationally that operates without a significant state-funded subsidy.)

Underlying our budgeting decisions is our commitment to putting the quality of education first. We have invested heavily in equipping classrooms with electronic projection systems, upgrading digital imaging systems for improved service and teaching, and hiring–at competitive salaries–faculty and staff in areas of teaching and research emphasis. Yet we operate efficiently: compared with other colleges of veterinary medicine nationally, our cost of instruction per professional student is in the lower half.

Among the greatest assets available to our students and our College is our dedicated family of alumni and friends–future employers, colleagues, advisers, and proponents. In this issue, we thank all of you who make financial contributions to the College (see page 5), including gifts toward the record $125,000 given in scholarships and awards to our DVM students last year.

Another asset that sustains the College and the profession, and one we especially highlight during this 50th anniversary year, is the "heart, vision, voice" that unites the veterinary medicine family in its commitment and caring toward animals. What makes our students willing to pursue this field, even at tremendous costs of time, energy, and money? It is because, just like the stalwarts from the Class of ’52, veterinary medicine is their first love. With understanding and gratitude, we echo Dr. Latham when he says, "I love this. I’ll do it as long as I can."

Student Expenses for 1948 Minimum
Tuition fee (residents of Illinois) $80 $80
Laboratory, library and supply fees 16 16
Hospital and medical service fee 10 10
Illini Union service charge 10 10
Textbooks 40 50
School supplies 25 35
Room 200 230
Board 350 450
Laundry (mailed home) 9 9
Miscellaneous 50 100
Total $790 $990

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