Michigan revamps vet curriculum with hopes to reduce student debt

Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine plans to implement a new curriculum by fall semester 2018

Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine plans to restructure its curriculum in an effort to reduce student debt and stress. The move will also help enhance student success and wellness, according to MSU, which made the announcement in mid-October.

“The veterinary medicine profession and education are at a critical juncture,” said Julie Funk, DVM, Ph.D., associate dean for academic programs and student affairs, MSU College of Veterinary Medicine. “Student debt rates are creating a tremendous burden for students, so we have to reinvent how we educate our students to ensure their success and wellbeing.”

In 2015, mean starting salaries for veterinarians were in the range of $70,000. The goal is to reduce the student debt to salary ratio from the current 2.2:1 ratio for in-state tuition to 1.4:1, according to MSU.

To accomplish this, the college is considering shortening the time it takes to get a degree. The new curriculum, referred to as a “learner-centered” curriculum, will also promote wellness because it will include more opportunities for applied educational experiences and personal and professional development for students and faculty.

“MSU doctor of veterinary medicine graduates have always been exceptionally well prepared,” Dr. Funk said. “They graduate with the skills and knowledge to practice on all species, but in reality, many don’t spend their careers caring for all species. Why should we teach them to be experts about pigs if their desire is to care for cats and dogs? We want to allow students more flexibility to align their studies with their career interests and for them to be well-prepared to pass the board exam.”

MSU will be working with its new Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology to restructure the curriculum. The Hub works with stakeholders both inside and outside of MSU to create, identify and accelerate new ways to collaborate, learn, research and deliver instruction.

“The Hub has helped us make curriculum revision an inclusive and accelerated process, with faculty, staff and students playing key roles,” Funk said. “Their approach has helped faculty understand the need for curriculum revision.”

MSU plans to have the new curriculum developed by the spring of 2017 and ready for implementation at the start of the fall semester 2018.

“The sooner, the better,” Funk said. “We refuse to close our eyes, cross our fingers and hope that veterinary medical education will change. We intend to take care of our students, ensure their success and set a national example for veterinary medical education.”

Fast Facts

  • As a whole, U.S. veterinary students accumulate $750 million in educational debt each year to pay $650 million in tuition.
  • The 2016/17 MSU College of Veterinary Medicine tuition for in-state students is $29,804.
  • In 2015, mean starting salaries for veterinarians were in the range of $70,000.
  • Veterinarians face singular challenges in their jobs and the rates of suicide and depression are unusually high among U.S. veterinarians.
  • The average veterinarian completes 4 ½ years of undergraduate education and four years in veterinary school.

*Sources: American Veterinary Medical Association; Michigan State University

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