AVMA backs national efforts to make higher education affordable

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The AVMA is supporting two legislative initiatives aimed at reducing the educational debt of veterinary students and graduates.

At its meeting in April, the Executive Board authorized the AVMA to continue helping the Department of Agriculture write the rules and regulations of the National Veterinary Medical Services Act. Congress passed this legislation last year to provide educational debt forgiveness to veterinarians who work in underserved areas and to those veterinarians who join a "National Guard" of veterinarians who would assist the USDA in animal and public health emergencies. In April, the board also authorized the AVMA to actively seek the passage of legislation to fund the act.

In January, the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges had convened a panel of veterinarians, including representatives from the USDA, the Department of Homeland Security, academia, state veterinarians, and veterinary practitioners from species groups. The USDA Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service—the agency responsible for writing the rules and regulations of the National Veterinary Medical Services Act—requested that the AVMA convene the panel.

"The USDA reached out to the profession and asked 'Can you help?'" said Dr. Michael Chaddock, director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division.

The panel drafted a document that will aid the development of the rules and regulations. The AVMA also has suggested that $60 million in agricultural appropriations be made available to allow the National Veterinary Medical Services Act to fund 400 veterinarians over a three-year period.

An article in the Jan. 1 issue of JAVMA provides more information on the National Veterinary Medical Services Act; it is available online https://www.avma.org/News/JAVMANews/Pages/040101c.aspx.

Additionally, the board approved AVMA support for the Higher Education Affordability Act of 2003 (H.R. 3412), which would increase incentives for pursuing higher education. The bill is currently being reviewed by the House subcommittee on 21st Century Competitiveness.

The Higher Education Affordability Act of 2003 would amend the Internal Revenue Service tax code to achieve the following:

  • Expand the Student Loan Interest Deduction to allow borrowers to deduct the full amount of interest on education loans and increase the income eligibility for deducting loans
  • Increase allowable contributions to Educational Savings Accounts from $2,000 to $5,000
  • Allow room and board expenses paid for with scholarship funds to be excluded from income and not taxable
  • Equalize the treatment of prepayment and savings plans, so students are not penalized for savings when they apply for aid
  • Make permanent the education affordability provisions of the Economic Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001