Veterinary students at the the University of Florida will receive more than $800,000 in scholarships this year, thanks to the generosity of clients, friends and alumni of the school’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The college launched an ambitious scholarship initiative two years ago, and has more than doubled the amount of scholarship dollars it awards each year to veterinary medical students.
College dean, James W. Lloyd said 16 million “new dollars” had been committed since the beginning of the campaign in 2015.
This year, the college will award more than $800,000 in scholarships to veterinary medical students, he said.
“This is directly because of the support we have received from alumni, grateful clients of our teaching hospitals and friends of the veterinary medical profession,” Lloyd said. “However, we are also currently exploring some creative and innovative new strategies.”
Known as the UF Veterinary Access Scholarship program, the initiative started following a national conversation about how debt load is threatening to limit access to the veterinary medical profession, and how the college might be able to impact that trend.
Interestingly, Lloyd said, this conversation took a somewhat unexpected turn.
“Because owning a practice provides one of the best ways for a student to retire their debt, our program is creating a new discussion as to how practitioners will be able to transition their practices to new practitioners,” he said.
Lloyd said the college is now experiencing a “perfect marriage” of alumni who are preparing for retirement and newer graduates looking at owning a practice.
“The student carrying a big debt load with an interest in practice ownership has a good way to offset their monthly student loan payment, as practice owners generally make more money than non-owner veterinarians,” Lloyd said. “At the same time, alumni are considering donations to the college when they sell their practices because there are often tax advantages in doing so.”
About 3000 students graduate each year from veterinary medical colleges in the United States, according to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges. The most recent American Veterinary Medical Association student survey reports that these new graduates leave school with an average debt of $135,000.
“The need for veterinarians both nationally and internationally will only increase,” Lloyd said. “We feel it is our obligation to our students, to the profession and to society as a whole, to help enhance student access, keeping our profession vibrant and robust.”