Economics of education: Summit attendees gather to identify ways to alleviate student debt

Student debt is an increasingly critical issue for the entire veterinary profession, and how to reduce that debt and improve the overall economic picture for young veterinarians was the focus of a summit held at Michigan State University last week. Summit attendees put forth a number of recommendations, including streamlining curricula, increasing scholarship opportunities, boosting starting salaries, lobbying federal lawmakers for legislation to lower interest rates on student loans and creating a national plan for reducing the debt-to-income ratio.

The suFix the debt...Our Future, Our Responsibilitymmit, organized jointly by the AVMA, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges and the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, brought together approximately 180 individuals from across the veterinary spectrum. The collective goal over the three-day summit was to agree on specific strategies to address the many facets of this complex challenge, with the goal of reducing the debt-to-income ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is an indicator of the financial health of the veterinarian entering the profession, and it currently stands at about 2:1, representing a level of educational debt approximately twice the level of starting income.

For more information on the summit and the next steps that will be taken designed to help reduce student debt, please read the press release posted in our online Press Room.

4 thoughts on “Economics of education: Summit attendees gather to identify ways to alleviate student debt

  1. Everyone involved in this discussion seem to be circling the wagons to protect their area of interest and pointing the finger at others. The biggest changes causing the current economic problems are increased educational costs (presumedly from less state support/Great Recession fall out) and dramatic increases in available veterinarian work hours (both from under employed veterinarians and dramatic increases in graduated students from current and new veterinary schools). Both of these must be decreased to even hope to improve the current debt to income situation for all veterinarians. The great economic minds need to go back to the basics of supply and demand. Veterinary salaries don’t just increase without revenue coming into the practice. New veterinary graduates are NOT generally able to generate high revenues, especially looking at their net, until they have general practice medical AND client care AND economic experience. Dumbing down the veterinary curriculum with fewer years, or a distributive educational model, will help in the short term, but eventually will severely compromise the future of veterinary medicine. One interesting solution may be a “nurse practitioner” level of care which I suggested at the Specialiat in Private Practice meeting a few years ago (CSU has also recently started discussing this). Veterinary medicine has a unique position of respect with the public, and it seems to be growing with the physicians with the One Health movement; let’s not blow it!

    • I fully support the points discussed by Dr. Huss. I have had many conversations in recent years expressing my concern about this issue. My thoughts echo Dr. Huss to a “T”. It is not about changing the educational model, it is about the market place and laws of “supply and demand”. I am concerned that with increased student debt burden coupled with stagnant salary levels, we will not be attracting the best and brightest to the profession and will limit the number of individuals who can financially afford to pursue postgraduate specialty training. I think the AVMA need to hold our educational institutions more accountable for fiscal responsibility with respect to student tuition. This is, in my opinion, the key driver to the problem, the ever escalating costs of education that are borne solely by the “consumer” who is viewed as the easy revenue source. .

    • Nurse practitioners are essentially what most companion animal practitioners are doing know because the current curriculum is dumbed down because we still believe schools can educate everyone to be everything in 4 years which we know is ludicrous. Now to develop depth and expertise you need to do internship and residency because the schools are run by those who have little knowledge of general veterinary practice but continue to try to emulate human medicine in their education for specialists.over training for general practice. As has been suggested by Pew Report over thirty years ago, start specializing in the DVM curriculum so students can learn in depth general practice skills and not just how to do only preventive care and refer everything else. Most clients cannot afford human, gold standard medical care for their pets and food animal definitely needs are so vastly different from companion animal practice. However, the profession is so hidebound to the one size fits everyone and everything school and curriculum that it cannot change and will continue to decline. I have been so disappointed by this arrogance and inability of the profession to face new realities that we have been discussing for years, but never implement.

  2. These ideas are all well and good – though the “idea” of boosting starting salaries leaves me wondering where that money will come from – but doesn’t actually address the root cause of the problem. The cost of an education in the US is out of control. The ratio of administrative staff to student is crazy. And this is in the age of computer technology! How did the get by when everything was done on paper? Also, why do dorms need to look like condos, why does every fitness center have to rival high end private gyms? So much money is wasted. And the loans flow out because most kids don’t understand what they are doing to their long term financial health. The rest think that someone else will come up with a way to bail them out. It’s unsustainable.