Owe: Graduates, Practices Look for New Equations in Veterinary
estimates that she will graduate from the College of Veterinary Medicine
owing $74,000 in government loans. Papp, a third-year student, says
she has this much debt because she has been paying for her school since
she was 18 years old.
According to Dr.
Gerald Pijanowski, associate dean for academic and student affairs,
the mean student debt at graduation from the College of Veterinary Medicine
Students enrolled in
Dr. Merles class Your Future in Veterinary Medicine
were asked to illustrate how current societal trends could affect
their veterinary practice.
Dr. Michael Meade,
a veterinarian with West Central Veterinary Services in Veedersburg,
Ind., sympathizes with students facing debts from veterinary school.
Theres no doubt in my mind at all that students are coming
out owing way too much money, Dr. Meade says.
In addition to
facing a heavy debt load, Dr. Meade says that there arent many
students going to mixed practices, so he feels these practices need
to try new approaches to appeal to more students.
Dr. Meade, a 1977
Illinois graduate and a graduate of the Colleges Executive Veterinary
Program in Swine Health, has devised a program in which students can
start getting a paycheck before they begin working at the WCVS, and
before they graduate.
The program serves
two purposes: to help with student debt as well as to help clinics recruit
students interested in mixed practice.
program is open to third-year veterinary students interested in working
at WCVS. It includes $500 per month for 12 months, a payment that begins
June 1 of the students senior year. The student would pay back
the loan 30 days after initial employment with WCVS, at an interest-free
rate of $150 per month over a period of 40 months. Some Illinois students
have expressed interest in the program, but currently only a Purdue
student is actively participating.
says that programs similar to Dr. Meades have been under way at
other colleges for years. At the University of Illinois College of Engineering,
an undergraduate can sign a contract to work for General Electric for
a fixed amount of time. GEs program includes a stipend and payment
Pijanowski believes that there are jobs available with good salaries.
A year ago, Papp says, the job market did not look promising, but now
she feels confident about the kind of pay that veterinary jobs are offering.
Papp has seen advertisements for clinics that offer $70,000 a year.
Dr. Christine Merle,
clinical program facilitator in the Colleges Continuing Education-Public
Service office, says that although veterinary salaries have increased,
student debt load has increased much faster.
need to be able to make informed job choice decisions and their debt
load has a huge impact on that, she says. Dr. Merle teaches elective
courses dealing with life skills, including budgeting and career planning,
to students in the first three years of the veterinary degree program.
More than 150 students enrolled in the courses during the fall 2001
semester, when they were first offered.
Student loans can
begin in the undergraduate years and pile up as the student continues
through school. The combination of living expenses and added cost for
out-of-state students can leave a student with a tremendous debt.
According to an
article by Dr. Dennis McCurnin in the November 2001 issue of Veterinary
Practice News, the two factors that affect the hiring of new veterinarians
are the level of compensation and geographic location.
Dr. McCurnin estimates
about three jobs available per new graduate, but says only one-third
to one-half of those jobs will cover debt load and living expenses.
Finding a location
that can meet a students demands can also be difficult. Dr. Merle
explains that both rural areas and urban areas with a higher cost of
living face problems when it comes to attracting new graduates.
communities may not be able to provide pay that can support debt. Their
location may be less desirable due to a number of factors, including
lack of possible job opportunities for spouses, Dr. Merle says.
Higher income areas
have problems as well. Dr. Merle uses Chicago as an example. The
Chicagoland area is hiring usually at higher salaries. However, the
cost of living in that area has increased dramatically over the years,
Dr. Merle says. Even with a higher salary, students will have difficulties
supporting their debt.
What this implies
for practitioners is that they should consider innovative programs,
such as Dr. Meades loan program, to make their clinic more appealing
to job seekers.
Programs such as
the one Dr. Meade is implementing are good from the employers
standpoint, says Dr. Pijanowski, because the employer is able to recruit
a new employee and within a year will have developed a relationship
with this person.
that can offer this must be well managed to begin with, and attractive
to the student, Dr. Pijanowski says. Students wont
go just anywhere. Theyre looking around. Practices are going to
have to compete for students.