USDA vet loan repayment program awards $4.5m

VMLRP awards granted to 49 veterinarians to help repay school loans in exchange for practicing in designated shortage areas.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture today awarded more than $4.5 million to 49 American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving in areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources.

The awards, made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture, will help fill shortages in 26 states.

"Rural America is challenged with recruiting veterinarians," USDA chief veterinary officer Dr. John Clifford said. "These professionals often face high student loan debt, leading them to work in locations with larger populations and higher pay. This program offers loan-repayment assistance to veterinarians, allowing them to fill shortages and work in rural areas, ultimately improving the well-being of livestock and providing an abundant and safe food supply for America."

Studies have indicated that there are shortages of food animal veterinarians in certain areas of the country, and in high-priority specialty sectors that require advanced training, such as food safety, epidemiology, diagnostic medicine and public health. A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training which leaves current graduates of veterinary colleges with a mean debt burden of $135,283.

VMLRP recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Assn.-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a doctor of veterinary medicine degree or the equivalent.

This is the third year NIFA has made renewal awards through VMLRP. Previous awardees with educational debt surpassing $75,000, the maximum award amount, are eligible to apply for a renewal award.

In fiscal 2015, NIFA received 137 applications and made 49 awards.

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