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USDA Selects Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Awardees

Media Contact: Jennifer Martin, (202) 720-8188

WASHINGTON – Nov. 9, 2010 – USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) announced today it will offer  62 rural veterinarians awards to repay their veterinary school loans in return for their services in areas suffering from a lack of veterinarians.

“Veterinarians face insurmountable student loan debt, and often struggle to repay the debt that they incur during their training. Too often this leads them to make the choice of working in locations that may offer higher pay than in rural America.. This is creating a shortage of adequate veterinary services for producers of agriculture animals in rural America,” said Roger Beachy, NIFA director. “These awards will bring trained veterinarians back to rural areas to serve producers, improve the health of the livestock industry and ensure a safe food supply.”

The awards were made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP). 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 the attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine 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 made directly to the awardee’s IRS tax account to offset the increase in income tax liability.

In fiscal year 2010, NIFA received 260 applications, for a success rate of 23.8 percent. Below is a breakdown of the fiscal year 2010 awards:

  • 62 awards totaling $5,998,080 (includes loan and tax payments)
  • Average award: $96,582 (includes loan and tax payments)
  • Average eligible debt for repayment: $98,672
  • 65 percent of recipients received the maximum payment of $25,000 per year (plus taxes)
  • 65 percent of awards went to those who obtained their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine within the last three years
  • 34 states will fill at least one shortage area through VMLRP
    • Iowa will fill five shortage areas
    • Idaho, Kansas and Texas will fill four shortage areas
    • Kentucky, Michigan, Montana and South Dakota will fill three shortage areas
  • Shortage type breakdown
    • Type 1 (at least 80 percent private practice): 24 awards
    • Type 2 (at least 30 percent private practice): 32 awards
    • Type 3: (at least 49 percent public practice): 6 awards

Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Type 1 shortage areas are private practice dedicated to food animal medicine at least 80 percent of the time. Type 2 shortages are private practices in rural areas dedicated to food animal medicine up to 30 percent of the time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice up to 49 percent of the time.

Veterinarians are critical to the national food safety and food security infrastructures, and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans; however, major studies indicate significant and growing shortages of food supply veterinarians and veterinarians serving in certain other high priority specialty areas.  A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training, which can average between $100,000 and $140,000. Congress established the VMLRP as a way to remedy this growing need.

The National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment provided their expertise in service to NIFA during the applicant review process by reviewing loan documents submitted by the applicants.

Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people's daily lives and the nation's future. For more information, visit


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).