A new agreement would allow Nebraskans studying veterinary medicine to take their classes through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources for the first two years and Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine for the final two years.
The cooperative program has won most approvals at the college, university, and state levels. Iowa State also has been consulting with the AVMA Council on Education, which considers all of a college's programs during accreditation.
Iowa State is in the midst of seeking full accreditation status from the council, which downgraded the college to limited accreditation in 2004. Dean John U. Thomson said the cooperative program would fit into a five-year plan to expand veterinary facilities and faculty while improving finances.
Similar programs are rather rare in veterinary medicine. Oregon State University established a veterinary college in 1975, so it is phasing out a program that sent students to Washington State University after two years. Most states without veterinary colleges contract with colleges in other states to educate students for all four years.
Nebraska has been contracting with Iowa State while the universities work toward a cooperative program. Iowa State accepted 25 first-year students from Nebraska for the first time in fall 2005—and will accept 25 more this fall. The cooperative program would allow 25 first-year students to start their education at the University of Nebraska in 2007.
Dr. Thomson said the program would combine the strengths of two universities. Iowa State has programs in swine and dairy cattle, while the University of Nebraska's agriculture institute focuses more on beef cattle in the Department of Veterinary & Biomedical Sciences and the Department of Animal Science. Dr. Donald Draper, associate dean for academic and student affairs at Iowa State, said Nebraska also offers training opportunities through two zoos and an Omaha animal shelter.
Nevertheless, the agreement with Nebraska has highlighted concerns about whether Iowa State has enough space and staff to accommodate classes that now average 120 students. The cooperative program could raise the class size to as many as 145 students in each of the clinical third and fourth years.
Dr. Thomson said Iowa State is spending about $51 million to expand the teaching hospital, partially in response to Council on Education recommendations following a 2003 site visit. Along with the increase in students, the five-year plan includes renovating laboratories and lecture halls while adding 30 faculty positions to improve the student-faculty ratio.
At the college's invitation, the council visited again in 2005 specifically to offer advice about the cooperative program.
Dr. Draper said the cooperative program could be an advantage for Iowa State's accreditation status. He said the program will not only synergize resources, but also enhance revenues for both institutions.
Under the current contract, Nebraskans at Iowa State's veterinary college pay the same tuition as Iowa residents—with Nebraska paying the difference between resident and nonresident tuition. Under the cooperative program, Nebraska would receive the first two years of tuition from the Nebraska students. Iowa State would accommodate the additional Nebraska students only in the third and fourth years.
Members of the Council on Education visited Iowa State and Nebraska to consult on the program for a second time from May 30-31. Dr. Donald Simmons, director of the AVMA Education and Research Division, said a full site visit will be necessary to investigate resources and potential outcomes at both universities if they move forward with the cooperative program.