USDA repays veterinary education loans |

USDA repays veterinary education loans

The Agriculture Department on Friday awarded more than $4.5 million to 49 American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving in areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources.

The awards, made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will help fill shortages in 26 states, USDA said in a news release.

“Rural America is challenged with recruiting veterinarians,” said John Clifford, the USDA chief veterinary officer.

“These professionals often face high student loan debt, leading them to work in locations with larger populations and higher pay. This program offers loan-repayment assistance to veterinarians, allowing them to fill shortages and work in rural areas, ultimately improving the well-being of livestock and providing an abundant and safe food supply for America.”

A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training which leaves current graduates of veterinary colleges with a mean debt burden of $135,283, according to USDA.

Recipients are required to commit to three years of service in a designated veterinary shortage area. 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 resulting in a doctor of veterinary medicine degree 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 percent of the loan payment to offset the increase in income tax liability.

This is the third year NIFA has made renewal awards through VMLRP. Previous awardees with educational debt surpassing $75,000, the maximum award amount, are eligible to apply for a renewal award. Renewal applications follow the same competitive review process as new applications, and submission of a renewal application does not necessarily mean the veterinarian will received continued VMLRP benefits.

In fiscal year 2015, NIFA received 137 applications and made 49 awards. An online map is available describing each shortage area filled in FY 2015.

The degree to which the veterinarians receiving the awards must devote themselves to the provision of food animal veterinary services depends on the shortage levels in the areas in which they work.

–The Hagstrom Report