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May 01, 2020

Bill would help veterinarians handle student debt while pursuing advanced education

Published on April 15, 2020
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A bill introduced March 9 in Congress would allow for the deferment of payments and interest accumulation on student loans while a veterinarian is pursuing additional training in a doctoral program, residency, or internship.

Coin stack graphDrs. Kurt Schrader and Ted Yoho, two veterinarians in the U.S. House of Representatives, introduced the Veterinary Education and Training Minimizes Educational Debt Act (HR 6134).

“Residencies and internships are critical to preparing veterinarians for high-need specialties like emergency medicine, oncology and large animal medicine, but during this time spent in additional training, veterinary borrowers face massive interest accumulation that can make loan repayment feel insurmountable,” said Dr. John Howe, AVMA president, in a March 10 statement. “The VET MED Act is an important step toward alleviating this debt burden, and we’re thankful to Representatives Schrader and Yoho for introducing this bill.”

Many veterinarians who enter doctoral programs, residencies, or internships must make payments on educational loans and will also accumulate substantial interest on their loans during their time spent in training. This situation presents a financial challenge to recruiting veterinarians for specialized training because the average resident’s salary in 2019 was about $34,000.

According to the AVMA, the VET MED Act would help address this challenge and ensure the nation has enough highly trained veterinarians by allowing veterinary borrowers to pause their interest accumulation and loan repayment while pursuing advanced education.

The AVMA Board of Directors had approved support for a draft of the bill while meeting Jan. 9 in Chicago. According to background materials from the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee, “While the bill does not address the underlying cause of the student debt crisis, the bill is consistent with AVMA’s Higher Education Act principles and would provide another tool to help veterinarians manage their student debt burdens. A significant benefit of the bill is that it would prevent the accumulation of compounded interest while they are pursuing additional competencies post-graduation. AVMA estimates that during the course of their veterinary school training, borrowers may accumulate $27,000-$40,000 on their student loans from interest alone.”

The mean educational debt was $183,302 among 2019 graduates from U.S. veterinary colleges who had debt.

“Advancements in veterinary medical clinical care and rising client demand for high-level diagnostic and therapeutic services have increased the number of veterinarians who choose to conduct post-DVM clinical training programs on the path to earning specialty board certification,” said Dr. Andrew T. Maccabe, CEO of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, in a statement. “This legislation will help these individuals better manage the educational debt which is often required to finance their training programs.”

After the bill’s introduction, passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provided for the suspension of payments and interest accumulation on federal student loans through Sept. 30.