Efforts are evolving on how to deal with educational debt

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The average nominal debt of all U.S. veterinary graduates increased from $ 50,000 in 2001 to $ 150,000 in 2018. This represents an annual increase of 7%, or $ 6,262 each year, said Bridgette Bain, PhD, associate director of analysis at AVMA Veterinary Economics. Division. These increases in reported debt, taken from AVMA surveys of seniors, are a function of tuition and tuition fees, the number of students paying tuition fees in the state versus tuition fees, funding public and the cost of living. Of course, not all veterinary colleges have seen increases at the same rate.

Bridgette Bain, PhD, Associate Director of Analysis in the Veterinary Economics Division of AVMA, presented information on educational debt and starting salaries during the session “The collaborative approach of the initiative on Veterinary Debt ”at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference Jan. 10-13 in Chicago. (Photos by Sara Beugen / Shoot My Events)

For example, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine, the annual increase in educational debt of state graduates was 0.13% between 2006 and 18, and at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the increase was $ 787 per year at that time. In comparison, graduates of Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine have seen an annual increase of 13.14% over those 12 years. Kansas State University veterinary graduates have seen their debt grow an average of 9.08 percent per year.

“We have some schools, for whatever reason, where students graduate with lower debt levels,” Dr. Bain said. “We can’t change the tuition fees, but maybe we can learn from successful schools and copy that.”

Dr. Bain presented information on educational debt and starting salaries during the “The Collaborative Approach of the Veterinary Debt Initiative” session at the AVMA Veterinary Leadership Conference, January 10-13 in Chicago .

VDI update

The Veterinary Debt Initiative is an offshoot of the Fix the Debt Summit, held in the spring of 2016 at Michigan State University, and aims to tackle the problem of educational debt. The VDI has since evolved into an effort between AVMA, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, and leaders of the Veterinary Medical Association.

In recent times, the VDI has focused on developing resources to help veterinary students and veterinarians navigate the “critical moments” in their financial journey that have an inordinate influence on whether they thrive. financially.

The VMAE website covers financial literacy and helps practitioners improve the management of their practice, for example. AVMA’s My Veterinary Life website is dedicated to providing information and resources on personal wellness, financial literacy, and career success, and the site features tools developed by the Veterinary Economics Division. of the AVMA. And the AAVMC hosts the VDI website which provides “new and remarkable” best practices and examples from veterinary colleges and beyond to inspire others or encourage them to get involved.

Dr Andrew Maccabe, CEO of AAVMC, said the reality is that students shouldn’t expect tuition fees to drop.

“Most veterinary schools have very little control over tuition fees, which are often set at the university level,” said Dr Maccabe. “It’s a complicated process, and each university handles it differently. While it might seem logical that you can cut tuition fees by cutting costs, for example by reducing the number of professors, higher education doesn’t work. not always that way. Each school is committed to providing the highest quality education possible, and each dean has a list of improvements they would like to make. As money becomes available, they’ll put it back into the program to improve quality. So even if they cut costs, it wouldn’t necessarily lower tuition. “

Alexandra Sables
Alexandra Sands, Deputy Director of the Government Relations Division of AVMA, considers efforts such as the annual AVMA Legislative Fly-In and AVMA members writing to their representatives to be essential in highlighting the educational policy needs of the veterinary community.

One solution often suggested to help students cope with their student debt is to increase financial education. But Dr Maccabe cited studies suggesting that providing general financial education will increase financial literacy, but general education will not substantially change behaviors. Instead, it is more effective to provide time-bound, deadline-oriented financial education focused on a specific activity, such as buying a practice or taking out loans.

“Maybe every student should see a financial advisor right before they take out their student loan,” Dr. Maccabe said. “This is where we need to refocus our attention. We need to be more focused and smarter in the way we deliver financial literacy education.

Similarly, the AVMA House of Delegates adopted recommendations last summer asking the AVMA to investigate the following:

  • Methods of providing financial advisors to help applicants, students and recent graduates manage the cost of education.
  • Strategies for Private Practitioners to Help Students and New Grads Manage the Cost of Education.
  • Development of a financially viable low interest loan program for students and recent graduates.
  • Consideration of developing a toolkit of advocacy strategies to help state AMVs promote increased financing of loans and repayment programs for higher education.
Average annual change in graduate resident debt since 2006 - Source: AVMA Veterinary Economics Division

The AVMA Board of Directors reviewed the recommendations at its September meeting, said Dr. David Granstrom, AVMA Deputy Executive Vice President. The Association is currently studying the first recommendation. Regarding the second, he said: “There are some exciting things going on in the background that we can’t talk about at the moment, but hopefully in the not-so-distant future we will have something to say about it. . “

The fourth recommendation, added Dr Granstrom, has been reviewed by the AVMA State Defense Committee, which has determined that a number of resources are currently available, including a map of cancellation programs. state loans.

Advocacy efforts

Part of VDI’s mission is dedicated to advocating on state and federal initiatives to ensure that the unique financial needs of the veterinary profession are heard and represented in policy development.

Alexandra Sands, deputy director of AVMA’s Government Relations Division, said AVMA’s advocacy priorities – and by extension VDI – are as follows:

  • Preserve and protect the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.
  • Reinstate subsidized Stafford loans for graduate students.
  • Establish a federal refinance option.
  • Eliminate setup costs and lower interest rates.
  • Maintain higher borrowing limits for federal student loans.
  • Increase awareness of income-based repayment plans.
  • Maintain the Perkins loan program.
  • Increase financial literacy.

The Higher Education Act is the general law governing federal higher education programs. It was last reauthorized 10 years ago, making it ripe for congressional attention. The most recent efforts were stalled due to fundamental political divisions during the 115th Congress. The then Republican-controlled House considered HR 4508 – the law promoting real opportunity, success, and prosperity through education reform – which reportedly did the following:

  • End the Public Service Loan forgiveness program for prospective borrowers.
  • Eliminate graduate loan programs.
  • Eliminate flexible repayment options including time-based loan forgiveness that is currently available through income-based repayment plans.

“There is certainly room for improvement (in the complex financial aid system), but instead of streamlining the HEA, the PROSPER Act would eliminate and consolidate programs for graduate students,” Sands said. “It was a devastating bill for our needs and contradicts our goals. You can see the contrast between what we asked for, what our needs are and what was in this bill.”

A Senate bill was expected but never presented. The PROSPER law was approved by the House Education and Workforce Committee by a 23-17 vote in December 2017, but has not progressed beyond. Sands credits advocacy efforts such as the AVMA Legislative Fly-In, AVMA members contacting their representatives and member engagement through the AVMA Political Action Committee as key to highlighting the educational policy needs of the veterinary community as well as concerns about the impact of PROSPER. Act.

Now at the 116th Congress, Sands said Democrats, who now control the House, have expressed interest in pushing forward HEA reforms this year, this time with more emphasis on bipartisan legislation. In the Senate, Lamar Alexander, who chairs the education committee, has a background in education but is of limited duration and therefore motivated to push forward a HEA rewrite before his retirement.

The House is also expected to scrutinize the Department of Education by Congress on a number of issues, including the forgiveness of public service loans, borrower advocacy and loan services.

“Members of Congress have shown that they are supportive of the PSLF and want to know more about what’s going on behind the low forgiveness rates we’ve seen to date,” Sands said. JAVMA New.

Related JAVMA content:

Salaries and Debt of New Grads Continue to Rise (December 15, 2018)

Education costs and global roles worry AVMA delegates (September 1, 2018)

Vets push for Farm Bill, Higher Education Act (June 1, 2018)

Divided by Debt (January 1, 2018)

AVMA supports student loan and debt bills (January 1, 2018)

Students Limited in Ability to Control Student Debt (June 15, 2017)

Take a multi-pronged approach to tackle school debt (January 1, 2017)

Students Defining Financial Literacy (October 15, 2016)

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