To reverse the trend of steadily increasing veterinary student debt, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine has launched a scholarship initiative aimed at rapidly increasing annual scholarship awards by tenfold.
Dean James W. Lloyd said, “We expect to be awarding $5 million in scholarship funds every year, within the next decade.”
He said there is concern that the escalating student debt load is restricting recruitment and possibly having a negative impact on the choice of career pathway among veterinary graduates.
The dean first announced the scholarship initiative in January at the North American Veterinary Community Conference in Orlando, Florida, saying that the initiative had received its first major contribution—a challenge matching gift of $100,000 from UF professor emeritus Dr. Paul Nicoletti for donations made by May 15 to the Dean’s Scholarship Endowment.
“Although other veterinary medical colleges also actively pursue student scholarships, our college is the first to have a development officer dedicated entirely to fundraising for scholarship support,” Dr. Lloyd said. Following a national search, he appointed Patricia Wlasuk to the post in January. She reported that the Nicoletti Challenge was met, raising $104,727.
Referring to the scholarship initiative as well as his hope to temper the increasing cost of veterinary medical education, Dr. Lloyd said, “Our goal is to see the average veterinary student’s debt load decrease instead of continuing to escalate.”
According to the recently released AVMA 2015 Report on Veterinary Debt and Income, mean educational debt for new veterinarians has grown by about $6,854 annually over the past 10 years and stood at an estimated $135,000 in 2014.