US veterinary colleges increase seats at accelerating rate
More than a third of institutions have had double-digit increases in first-year enrollment in the past five years
The number of first-year veterinary students enrolled for the 2022-23 school year at U.S. veterinary colleges exceeded 4,000 for the first time, according to data from the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC).
From 2012-23, the number of first-year students at U.S. veterinary colleges increased an average of 2.7% per year, or by a total of 37.7%, from 2,938 to 4,047. On average, seats have increased 2.0% annually since 1980.
These growing numbers come not only from existing veterinary colleges growing their class sizes, but also from new veterinary colleges that are currently enrolling veterinary students—three of which have or will be graduating their first classes between now and 2025. In addition, numerous universities have proposed additional new veterinary colleges. The result will be substantially more veterinary graduates in the years ahead.
Existing schools that are expanding
Overall enrollment for U.S. colleges of veterinary medicine hit 15,157 for the 2022-23 academic year compared with a total of 11,255 U.S. veterinary students in 2012-13.
Any veterinary college that wants to add another cohort, increase its entering class by more than 10%, or that would have a cumulative increase of 15% or more over five years in the total number of students in their program is required to have approval from the AVMA Council on Education (AVMA COE) before doing so. Approval of such a plan is contingent on the information provided to the council and continued compliance with the council’s accreditation standards.
From 2018-19 to 2022-23, the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine saw the largest bump, going from 114 to 150 first-year seats—or 36 total—followed by the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine increasing from 119 to 150—or 31 total—and Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Veterinary Medicine increasing from 101 to 131—or 30 total.
And it appears that LSU isn’t finished. The veterinary school is planning to increase its seats to 200 for the Class of 2028. This will be dependent upon the completion of some ongoing projects at the veterinary school, says Ginger Guttner, communications manager for LSU’s veterinary school. The state of Louisiana has awarded the veterinary school $2.2 million to help meet the new admissions goal. Guttner said the money has been used to support renovations, including converting its auditorium to a state-of-the-art, flexible teaching space and an expanded surgical training center.
In addition, Lincoln Memorial University (LMU) Richard A. Gillespie College of Veterinary Medicine in Harrogate, Tennessee, added a second cohort of 100 students this past January and will continue to matriculate 100 students each January in addition to enrolling 125 veterinary students each August. Starting in 2027, the veterinary college will graduate up to 225 students each year from the Harrogate program, making it the nation’s largest veterinary program.
The University of Arizona (UA) College of Veterinary Medicine graduated its first class this year. Hundreds gathered on August 24 for its inaugural commencement ceremony where more than 100 students were awarded DVM degrees, marking the end of their three-year curriculum.
The veterinary college received a letter of reasonable assurance from the AVMA COE in October 2019 after two attempts vying for the accreditor’s approval over six years. Launched in 2020, it offers a veterinary curriculum in three years rather than the traditional four years. About half of the graduating class had secured internships or jobs with corporations or independent private practices, according to the university.
Long Island University (LIU) College of Veterinary Medicine in Brookville, New York, enrolls around 108 veterinary students each year. The inaugural class began the veterinary program in fall 2020 and will graduate this coming spring.
The LIU Board of Trustees approved the proposed veterinary college in 2017, which applied for a comprehensive site visit the same year. LIU’s veterinary college received a letter of reasonable assurance from the AVMA COE in October 2019.
And finally, Texas Tech University School of Veterinary Medicine’s inaugural class will graduate in May 2025.
The university first announced plans in 2015 for its College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources to develop a veterinary school based at its Health Sciences Center in Amarillo. The program was granted a letter of reasonable assurance by the AVMA COE in September 2020.
The faculty and staff members moved into their new facilities in July 2021. Students undertake rotations both on campus within its facilities and off campus with community partners.
Texas Tech’s veterinary school anticipates 100-student class sizes after starting out with 64 for the 2021-22 academic year.
A version of this story appears in the November 2023 print issue of JAVMA