Q: Is there any evidence that the quality of graduates has decreased?
A: All evidence suggests that the quality of graduates has remained high. There is no evidence that the quality of education received at any accredited veterinary school is substandard or has diminished over time. Concern has been expressed that it is simply not possible for some of the more recently accredited schools (2008 to present) to provide an adequate veterinary medical education. By all indications, this concern is based on misperceptions and assumptions rather than evidence.
The accreditation of established schools requires review of a 100-page self-study with multiple links to online information, an in-depth, on-site visit that consists of a comprehensive facility inspection including all core clinical instruction sites (not elective externship sites), interviews with students, faculty, staff, administrators, and alumni, placement data, as well as the results of graduate and employer surveys. The accreditation process for new schools is similar, although entry into the process is based on submission of a plan to develop a new school over, typically, a 6- to 8-year period that is deemed feasible by the Council on Education (COE). The Council requires a self-study explaining how each accreditation standard will be met and conducts multiple site visits, including facility tours, and interviews with administrators, initial faculty, and any collaborators in order to evaluate the initial plan.
The Council also reviews results of the North American Veterinary Licensing Examination (NAVLE) for graduates of each accredited college who take the NAVLE as one of many ways to assess outcomes. The NAVLE is a rigorous, nationally standardized test designed to assess graduate preparedness at an entry level. It is prepared by the National Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners in conjunction with the National Board of Medical Examiners. Graduates of more recently accredited schools have consistently performed at or above the national average for all graduating seniors from accredited schools. In fact, a recent AVMA/AAVMC survey indicates that their graduates compete successfully for internships and residencies at other accredited veterinary schools. Further, there is no indication that their graduates entering clinical practice have received a disproportionate number of complaints from any state veterinary licensing board.
Accreditation standards are established to ensure graduates are capable of meeting societal needs for the services they provide. Accreditation is a pass/fail system, not a ranking system designed to distinguish elite from adequate programs. It is based primarily on the assessment of graduate and program performance or outcomes. The COE uses a variety of widely utilized outcome assessment measures that also help validate whether or not the accreditation standards have been established and applied appropriately (e.g., graduate and employer surveys and student attainment of the nine clinical competencies). The 2015 AVMA Veterinary Employment Survey found that 2008 and 2012 graduates of U.S. veterinary medical schools reported no significant differences among clinical competencies (practice preparedness) regardless of the school attended. The availability of a standardized, national licensing exam provides an important check and balance to ensure accreditation standards have been established and applied appropriately. The NAVLE is based on formal job analysis that establishes entry-level achievement requirements across a broad range of learning domains. When accreditation standards are established and applied appropriately, graduates of accredited schools should perform very well on the NAVLE. The pass rate on the NAVLE among graduates of COE-accredited veterinary medical schools consistently averages over 90%, according to the NVBME Technical Report. The pass rate among graduates of non-accredited schools consistently averages at or below 40%.