Life’s not a motion picture, and you can’t edit out the accumulation of student debt by leaving your college years on the cutting-room floor. But when you amass dozens of organizations and 100 volunteers with a common cause and mission, you can certainly try to rewrite the script.
That’s exactly what the AVMA and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges are attempting to do through a collaborative Fix the Debt initiative. Launched back in April during a summit hosted by the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, the initiative has really taken shape, moving from discussion to action.
We’re tackling the issue from a variety of angles, each of which is being addressed by strategic working groups comprised of representatives from across the profession, including veterinary students, colleges of veterinary medicine, state and allied associations, practice owners and other experts. Our collective goal is to reduce the debt-to-income ratio, which now stands at about 2:1, to 1.4:1. It’s not going to be easy getting there, but our strategy is designed to help gradually reduce the ratio to a more manageable level that will lead to a better place for young professionals both professionally and personally.
The working groups are focused on two areas – reducing debt and increasing income – but rest assured that each group is working toward the collective goal of reducing that debt-to-income ratio. The focus areas and the strategies associated with each are:
- Reducing debt:
- Increasing scholarship endowments
- Enhancing student financial literacy
- Streamlining the veterinary school curriculum
- Advocating to governments
- Minimizing the cost of borrowing
- Increasing income:
- Building professional skills and competencies
- Improving workplace on-boarding
- Focusing on preventive medicine
- Increasing practice ownership literacy
- Expanding career option awareness
Let’s look at just a few of the ways our Fix the Debt team is working to reduce educational debt.
- In addition to our ongoing efforts urging Congress to reauthorize the Higher Education Act, we are also specifically urging improvements to the terms and conditions of federal student loans, as well as provisions concerning repayment and refinancing. As part of our face-to-face advocacy efforts, we’re circulating an issue brief on Federal Student Aid Policy to bring focused attention to these critical issues.
- We’re encouraging AVMA and Student AVMA members to join our Congressional Advocacy Network so that they can become educated on the issues and help us spread our influence in Washington, D.C.
- We’re exploring the feasibility of enhancing financial literacy through a variety of approaches, including educating students and young veterinarians about budgeting, interest accrual on loans and how they have the ability to borrow less; and developing a continuing education model for financial literacy for both students and early career veterinarians.
When it comes to increasing veterinarians’ income, some of our efforts are focused on career resources, on-boarding, practice ownership and entrepreneurship.
- We’re looking to develop programs through a partnership between the AVMA’s Early Career Development Committee and the AVMA Veterinary Career Center that will focus on webinars and other educational vehicles.
- We’re collaborating with the Student AVMA and the Veterinary Business Management Association to boost entrepreneurship among young professionals.
Another example of our Fix the Debt strategies (and we don’t have the space to include all of our efforts in this one blog post) includes the development of continuing education programs focused specifically on the Fix the Debt initiative for upcoming AVMA and other professional meetings.
The combined efforts of the groups and individuals dedicated to fixing the debt are helping us focus on the issue and allowing us to gather our resources. We are working to bring all of these efforts together into a cohesive strategy with organized leadership and achievable goals.
We are looking to rewrite the script, because who doesn’t like a happy ending.