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Poll: Are You Drowning in Veterinary Student Debt?

Poll: Are You Drowning in Veterinary Student Debt?
We asked our Facebook audience whether their student debt is higher than their salary or expected starting salary. Find out how they responded below. Photo: Shutterstock.com/Syda-Productions
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Earning a college degree, especially an advanced one, is a major accomplishment. Too often, though, that degree is accompanied by significant student debt. This is true across all fields of study, including veterinary education. The average veterinary student debt was $143,757.82. If you subtract those students who graduated with no debt, the average debt load is even higher — $167,534.89. Meanwhile, more than 20% of graduating DVMs in 2016 has to repay $200,000 or more.¹

Compounding the challenge faced by those just coming out of veterinary school in repaying school loans is the rising cost of living and relatively static starting salaries.

We asked our Facebook audience whether their student debt is higher than their salary or expected starting salary and 77% answered “yes.”

In 2016, the average educational debt for veterinary school graduates, including those with zero debt, was $143,757.82….

Posted by Today's Veterinary Practice on Saturday, September 14, 2019

Drowning in Debt

One commenter shared that she’s been out of school for more than 11 years and still has roughly 14 more years left before her loans will be paid off, even though she’s been paying more than the minimum amount. Recently, she began receiving financial assistance from her employer. This is a fairly new development that more and more practices and hospitals are implementing in order to alleviate the serious financial burden of their employees’ student loan debt.

Finding Resources and Solutions

The AVMA has tips, including loan repayment strategies and awards/scholarships, and is spearheading the Veterinary Debt Initiative. This initiative focuses on creative solutions to help veterinarians develop financially sustainable and rewarding careers.

Companies such as Banfield have come up with various ways to help employees saddled with monthly loan payments. Banfield offers 3 options in its Veterinary Student Debt Relief Program—a monthly contribution paid by Banfield directly on qualifying student loans, a low-interest refinancing option from a third-party financial institution, and a one-time, $2,500 payment for each qualifying Banfield student program in which the doctor participates prior to graduating.

Veterinary colleges and institutions are taking an educational approach. Many CVMs offer tools and tips for limiting or reducing borrowing. They provide student loan scenario calculators that allow students to manipulate variables such as the size of their loans, length of time until payoff and associated interest rates, and their projected salaries at different points in their career. It shows exactly how much they will owe and what their monthly payments will be.

There are also federal and state-based repayment programs for veterinarians, though there are often limitations. The AVMA’s advocacy work in Washington, D.C., seeks to protect and expand loan forgiveness and repayment programs and to represent the veterinary perspective in discussions about higher education funding at the federal level.

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