USDA Awards Improve Veterinary Service In Rural Areas

Awards help vet students repay school loans; students required to practice in areas of need post-graduation

Published on: Dec 19, 2012

The USDA last week announced more than 40 awards to help veterinarians repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving areas of the United States lacking sufficient veterinary resources.

The awards, totaling more than $4.6 million, were made by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program and will benefit 30 states. 

"Many veterinarians are facing insurmountable student loan debt, and they choose to work in urban locations that offer higher pay. This is causing a critical shortage of veterinarians in rural America," said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. "This assistance will help veterinarians return to rural America where they can provide needed services to our farmers and ranchers and continue to keep our food supply safe for all Americans."

Awards help vet students repay school loans; students required to practice in areas of need post-graduation
Awards help vet students repay school loans; students required to practice in areas of need post-graduation

Veterinarians are critical to America's food safety and food security, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other high-priority specialty areas.

A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average more than $150,000, according to the latest American Veterinary Medical Association survey of graduating veterinary students.

Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the equivalent.

Loan repayments made by the VMLRP are taxable income to participants. Also included in the award is a federal tax payment equal to 39% of the loan payment made directly to the award recipient's IRS tax account to offset the increase in income tax liability.

In fiscal year 2012, NIFA received 139 applications, of which 47 received awards, a success rate of 33.8%. Below is a breakdown of the fiscal year 2012 awards:

Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Type 1 shortage areas are private practices dedicated to food animal medicine at least 80 percent of the award recipient's time. Type 2 shortages are private practices in rural areas dedicated to food animal medicine up to 30 percent of the time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice up to 49 percent of the time.

The National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment provided their expertise in service to NIFA during the applicant review process by reviewing loan documents submitted by the applicants.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit www.nifa.usda.gov.

To view a map showing all designated shortage areas and areas that were filled, click here.