USDA Loan Repayment Awards $4.5 Million to Ensure Access to Veterinary Services in Rural Communities
WASHINGTON- The U.S. Department of Agriculture today awarded more than $4.5 million to 49 American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving in areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources. The awards, made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP) administered by USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), will help fill shortages in 26 states.
"Rural America is challenged with recruiting veterinarians", said Dr. John Clifford, Chief Veterinary Officer for the USDA. "These professionals often face high student loan debt, leading them to work in locations with larger populations and higher pay. This program offers loan-repayment assistance to veterinarians, allowing them to fill shortages and work in rural areas, ultimately improving the well-being of livestock and providing an abundant and safe food supply for America."
Veterinarians are critical to America's food safety and food security and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Studies indicate there are significant shortages of food animal veterinarians in certain areas of the country, and in high-priority specialty sectors that require advanced training, such as food safety, epidemiology, diagnostic medicine and public health. A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training which leaves current graduates of veterinary colleges with a mean debt burden of $135,283.
Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial 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. Loan repayments made by the VMLRP are taxable income to participants. Also included in the award is a federal tax payment equal to 39 percent of the loan payment to offset the increase in income tax liability.