The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced today that they will be awarded $4.3 million to 48 veterinarians. In exchange for serving in areas that lack sufficient veterinary resources, the USDA and NIFA will pay a portion of their school debts. The awards, made through NIFA’s Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), will fill shortage needs in 27 states.
“Veterinarians play a critical role in keeping our nation’s food supply safe and animals healthy,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “The need for veterinarians in designated shortage areas is urgent. This loan repayment assistance program provides incentives for students to take up rural veterinary practices and help take care of American livestock.”
Studies have shown that there are significant shortages of food animal veterinarians in certain areas of the nation and in high-priority specialty sectors that require advanced training, such as food safety, epidemiology, diagnostic medicine and public health. The high cost of professional veterinary medical training contributes to this shortage. Current graduates of veterinary colleges have, on average, a student loan debt of more than $135,000.
The 48 veterinarians have committed to practicing at least three years in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial educational loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree or the equivalent.