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USDA Loan Repayment Awards Ensure Access to Veterinary Services in Rural Communities

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

WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2013 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today awarded more than $4 million to 46 American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources. The awards, made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), will fill shortage needs in 18 states. 

“Rural America is facing a few problems when it comes to receiving veterinary services. Many animal producers face a critical shortage of veterinarians. And many veterinarians, who have accumulated high student debt amounts, choose to work in locations that offer higher pay than rural America,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “This program is designed to give assistance to veterinarians – many of whom want to serve in rural America – so they can fill these shortages and help improve the health of livestock and ensure a safe food supply.”

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 significant shortages of food supply veterinarians in certain areas of the country and veterinarians serving in certain other high-priority specialty areas requiring 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 an average debt burden of $140,000.

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 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 to offset the increase in income tax liability.

This is the first year NIFA has made renewal awards through VMLRP. Previous awardees with educational debt surpassing $75,000, the maximum award amount, are eligible to apply for a renewal award. Renewal applications follow the same competitive review process as new applications, and submission of a renewal application does not necessarily mean the veterinarian will received continued VMLRP benefits.

In fiscal year 2013, NIFA received 140 applications and made 46 awards, a success rate of 32.9 percent. Below is a breakdown of the fiscal year 2013 awards:

  • 140 applications, 46 awards, success rate of 32.9 percent
    • NEW:  118 applications, 34 awards, success rate of 28.8 percent
    • RENEWAL:  22 applications, 12 awards, success rate of 54.5 percent
  • 46 awards totaling $4,053,280 (includes loan and tax payments)
    • 34 new awards totaling $3,415,252
    • 12 renewal awards totaling $638,028
  • Average award: $88,115 (includes loan and tax payments)
    • Average new award: $100,449
    • Average renewal award: $53,169
  • Average eligible debt for repayment on new awards: $115,793
  • 79 percent of new recipients (27 of 34) received the maximum payment of $25,000 per year (plus taxes)
  • 59 percent of new awards went to those who obtained their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine within the last three years
  • 18 states will fill at least one shortage area through a new VMLRP award
    • Iowa will fill four shortage areas
    • Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Oklahoma will fill three shortage areas
  • Shortage type breakdown (all awards)
    • Type I (at least 80 percent private practice): 13 awards
    • Type II (at least 30 percent private practice): 27 awards
    • Type III: (at least 49 percent public practice): 6 awards

A map is available online describing each shortage area filled in FY 2013.

Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Awardees filling Type 1 shortages areas must dedicate at least 80 percent of their time to provision of food animal veterinary services. Type 2 shortages are rural areas in which awardees are obligated to provide  food animal veterinary services at least 30 percent of their time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice and awardees must commit at least 49 percent of their time.

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 www.nifa.usda.gov.

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USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at (866) 632-9992 (English) or (800) 877-8339 (TDD) or (866) 377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).