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 AVMA 2015 senior survey examines the distribution of debt accumulated during veterinary college

​(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) July 26, 2016—The American Veterinary Medical Association’s (AVMA) annual senior survey of veterinary students found that 89% of 2015 graduates’ accumulated debt according to a report published in the August 1 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association. The mean debt accumulated for all students over four years was $142,394 with five percent of students graduating with more than $300,000 in debt.

Distribution of Total Education Debt

To determine the distribution of these funds, the 2015 survey was designed to have respondents assign a percentage of their debt to six specific categories.  The categories were tuition and fees, living expenses (room and board), transportation, books and materials, veterinary equipment and all other expenses. The percentage of debt assigned to these categories follows:

  • 68.3% – tuition and fees;
  • 19.5% – living expenses;
  • 4.4% – transportation;
  • 3.3 % – books and materials;
  • 2.0% – veterinary equipment;
  • 2.5% – all other expenses.

“We found that students were not incurring excessive debt because of exorbitant living while in veterinary college, or at least, not borrowing excessively to cover the cost of living expenses,” said Bridgette Bain, PhD, AVMA Assistant Director of Analytics and co-author of the study.

The study showed that the majority of debt incurred by students was primarily due to the cost of tuition and fees. The reported debt incurred for tuition and fees was within the range of estimated annual costs reported by various colleges. However, the cost of living expenses reported by the students were consistently less than the amount most colleges reported as necessary to cover living expenses and lower than the cost of living reported by the Economic Policy Institute. There was no evidence of extravagant spending by students.  

New veterinarians can expect an average starting salary of approximately $70,000 for a fulltime position, making the current debt-to-income ratio 2:1.

“Because so much of educational debt was attributable to tuition and fees, veterinary students are likely to face a crisis in the near future if the increase in tuition and fees continues to outpace the increase in starting salaries,” Bain said.

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