The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced April 5 that it is making $4.4 million available to help repay veterinary school loans in return for veterinarians serving in areas that lack sufficient veterinary resources. The funding is available through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, administered by USDA’s National Institute of Food & Agriculture (NIFA).
“Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and security as well as to the health and well-being of both animals and humans,” NIFA administrator Dr. Sonny Ramaswamy said. “There are significant shortages of veterinarians in areas of this country, and a leading cause is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which leaves current graduates of veterinary colleges with an average debt of more than $135,000.”
Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage situation. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received while attending an American Veterinary Medical Assn.-accredited college of veterinary medicine that results in a doctor of veterinary medicine degree or the equivalent.
Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Awardees filling Type 1 shortages must dedicate at least 80% of their time to the provision of food animal veterinary services. Type 2 shortages are rural areas in which awardees are obligated to provide food animal veterinary services for at least 30% of their time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice, and awardees must commit at least 49% of their time.
In fiscal 2015, NIFA received 137 applications and made 49 awards.