Tool details, compares cost of veterinary education

Lowest-, highest-cost colleges differ by more than $100,000
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For the first time, veterinary college applicants, students, and others can see in one place not only four-year costs at each of the 30 U.S. veterinary institutions but also how much tuition has increased in the past five years and the amount of scholarship aid that students typically receive. In addition, figures can be compared side by side in a reader-friendly format.

The Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges says it developed the Educational Cost Comparison Tool to help aspiring and current veterinary students make better decisions regarding the cost and course of their professional education, according to a Sept. 19 AAVMC press release.

The tool presents the following pieces of financial data:

  • In-state and out-of-state tuition cost (adjusted for veterinary colleges where residency may be established after the first year) for the class of 2016.
  • Mean annual increase in tuition from 2010-15.
  • Amount of institutional scholarship aid awarded in 2015.
  • Percentage of students to whom scholarship aid was awarded in 2015.
  • Mean estimated amount of loan debt a student would accrue while enrolled in veterinary school, assuming a loan interest rate of 6 percent.

The AAVMC’s Comparative Data Report, surveys of AAVMC member institutions, and internal calculations supply much of the data for the tool. It does not include data about the cost of living for each of the colleges.

A look at the numbers

The figures give a clearer picture of the economic reality of studying to be a veterinarian. Among the 30 U.S. veterinary colleges:

  • Only seven allow students to establish residency.
  • Mean percentage of students receiving aid in 2015 was 42.9 percent. Mean institutional aid for first-year students was $5,324, whereas mean total scholarship aid over four years was $12,724.
  • Mean annual increase in out-of-state tuition over the past five years was 4.02 percent; for in-state tuition, it was 5.84 percent (not including Lincoln Memorial University, Midwestern University, and Western University of Health Sciences, which don’t have in-state rates).
  • Estimated loan interest accrued by out-of-state students came to a mean of $31,796; for in-state students it was $18,905 (again, not including LMU, Midwestern, and Western).
  • Mean total four-year tuition and loan fees cost was $201,210 for out-of-state students and $119,634 for in-state students (again, not including LMU, Midwestern, and Western).

Importantly, the site warns that the numbers don’t tell the whole story, as some veterinary schools are better at offsetting students’ costs than others, which can make quite a difference, particularly at the more expensive institutions.

That said, however, the numbers provide some interesting insights. The University of California-Davis ranked fourth for highest cost for in-state students; however, it had the highest percentage (97.4 percent) of students receiving aid and was second best in terms of total mean scholarship aid given to students over four years ($43,554). UC-Davis also had the lowest rate of tuition increases for the past five years for out-of-state students and second lowest for in-state students. The University of Pennsylvania took the top spot in mean scholarship aid given to students over four years at $56,188, but only 26.4 percent of students received aid.

The best, at least in terms of lowest cost to students, was North Carolina State University. It ranked at the lowest cost for tuition—both for in-state and out-of-state students—even with a mean annual increase of 7.7 percent for in-state tuition and 4.3 percent for out-of-state tuition. The University of Wisconsin-Madison had the second lowest cost for out-of-state students and sixth lowest cost for in-state students, while the University of Missouri came in at third for lowest cost for out-of-state students and ninth for in-state students. Washington State University not only was fourth lowest for out-of-state tuition and 12th lowest for in-state tuition but also had the third lowest increase in tuition for out-of-state students and the lowest increase for in-state students among all U.S. institutions for the past five years.

Tuskegee University, although having the fifth lowest tuition rate for out-of-state students, came in last for total scholarship aid over four years ($2,411) and third to last for the percentage of students receiving aid (17.2 percent). Plus, it had the highest annual percentage rate increases in tuition over the past five years at 14.0 percent for out-of-state students and 33.6 percent for in-state students.

Piggy bankMississippi State University had the fifth cheapest tuition for in-state students but had the lowest percentage of its students receiving aid (2.10 percent), although this likely will be changing soon (see story). And, although it had the fifth highest amount awarded to first-year students ($10,000), total scholarship aid over four years was only $10,612 at Mississippi State.

Not surprisingly, the top five veterinary colleges in terms of cost for out-of-state students—Michigan State University, Midwestern, Colorado State University, the University of Tennessee, and Kansas State University—also ranked in the same order for highest estimated loan interest for out-of-state students. Kansas State had one of the lowest percentages of students receiving aid (11.5 percent) but had the highest mean amount for first-year awards ($21,333). Midwestern, the second most expensive school for out-of-state students, was the only institution that didn’t offer any scholarship aid. Tennessee had one of the lowest numbers for total scholarship aid over four years ($4,430). Only 6.4 percent of Western students received any form of scholarship aid, and the mean amount of aid over four years for those who received aid was $2,718.

Taking on educational debt

The Cost Comparison Tool was developed by the AAVMC following an idea that surfaced during the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit, aka Fix the Debt summit, that was held in April at Michigan State, and was co-hosted by the college, the AAVMC, and the AVMA. The current debt-to-income ratio for recent graduates in veterinary medicine is about 2:1, whereas experts believe that ratio should be about 1.4:1.

The existing debt-to-income ratio and rising educational costs represent a multifaceted and ongoing challenge for the profession, one that is being addressed by a variety of stakeholders from professional practice, academia, and the private sector who are collaborating on a 10-point action program developed from the summit. By combining its unique access to institutional data and relationships with prospective veterinary students in a single tool, the AAVMC has made a contribution to this effort.

“Increased transparency and accountability is important,” said Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, AAVMC CEO. “We think providing clear, easy-to-access data regarding the various components of financing a professional education will help applicants make comparisons, analyze opportunities, and ultimately make better financial decisions.”

AAVMC institutional researchers collaborated with multiple partners, including the AVMA and Veterinary Information Network. The association says data for international AAVMC member institutions that accept U.S. citizens will be added at a later date.

To see the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges’ Educational Cost Comparison Tool, go here.

Related JAVMA content:

Pulling together to lower the debt-to-income ratio (June 15, 2016)

Action items from the Economics of Veterinary Medical Education Summit (June 15, 2016)

Veterinary colleges look within for debt-reduction strategies (June 15, 2016)

Students press for personal finance education (June 15, 2016)