Class of 2020: A Changing Map for Aspiring Veterinary Students

University of Delaware charts a direct path to vet school for undergrads as new mainland schools emerge

“The Class of 2020” has a nice ring to it. When the graduation ceremonies are over that year, the potential exists for the largest pool of graduating veterinarians in history. This year, new vet schools are accepting their first students, and those gearing up to apply to begin classes in September. But aspiring vet students are finding that the tried-and-true but highly competitive method of applying to less than 30 veterinary colleges in the United States is changing.

Last month, the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine revealed that it had received 1,400 applications for 120 available seats in the Class of 2020. In 2015, the school ended up accepting 124 candidates, who had an overall grade point average of 3.5; 91 were women and 33 were males. In-state Maryland and Virginia students accounted for 80 of the seats, making the out-of-state applicants highly competitive.

But it’s not schools like Virginia-Maryland that people are talking about. The news is the emerging schools and the pressure from still more schools who’d like to offer the DVM degree. In addition, some undergraduate schools that don’t offer veterinary medicine can partner with off-shore schools that do.

The latest plan for a new school was announced in December, when Texas Tech University (TTU) unveiled its intention to open a veterinary college in Amarillo. TTU currently has 150 “pre-vet” students on its campus in Lubbock, but many are unable to find places at existing veterinary colleges. Texas is the nation’s leading producer of cattle, and food animal veterinarians are in great demand. Texas A&M University, home of the only current vet school in Texas, has not endorsed the TTU plan.

The Texas Tech plan points to a primary problem with the distribution of veterinarians in the United States: they aren’t where they need to be. Rural areas and the food animal industry are in need of more veterinarians, yet many new graduates gravitate to more lucrative positions in small animal medicine practices located in suburban areas. The pressure to re-pay student loans may be a factor in these choices.

New veterinary schools are open and operating. Midwestern University College of Veterinary Medicine in Glendale, Arizona and Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary & Comparative Medicine are accredited by the AVMA. Utah State University is launching a program in cooperation with Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In England, the Queen opened the new University of Surrey School of Veterinary Medicine in October. A unique program, including the the Wales Veterinary Science Centre and Aberystwyth University is the newest program.

It’s not only that there are new veterinary colleges in the United States: there are also larger classes in the existing schools. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in New York, for example, is in the process of expanding its class size from just 90 students a few years ago, to 120 by 2017. In some cases, the increase in students admitted is being attributed to offsetting state budget cuts to university operating expenses with an increase in tuition revenue.

At most schools, prospective students are competing for places against other American students, but some schools accept foreign students, as well.

According to the AVMA, the average four-year tuition cost for state resident and nonresident seats was $103,327 and $191,710, respectively, for 2015 graduates. 

Geography is a big factor in vet school admission, and the news this week emphasized that when the fate of Kentucky-resident future vet students went into limbo. Kentucky does not have its own vet school but is granted a number of places at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, so that 40 Kentucky residents can attend vet school at in-state tuition levels, with the taxpayers of Kentucky paying the difference to Auburn. 

The new Kentucky state budget submitted by the governor allows for funding of only 22 vet school places at Auburn. 

Auburn formerly was a very regional vet school, with spots held for students from North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and Louisiana. (Georgia and Mississippi have their own vet schools.) But vet schools were opened in North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee and Louisiana; Kentucky and West Virginia are the only states still cooperating with Auburn.

Many states are locked out of land-grant university quotas for students from particular zip codes. Preference is given to in-state residents or applicants from neighboring states who participate in a partnership with a particular vet school. 

In the past, Delaware residents have qualified for in-state tuition rates at the University of Georgia and Oklahoma State University.

  • The University of California at Davis has contracts for students from Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.
  • Colorado State University holds contracts with Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wyoming; students from those states save $25,000 each year on tuition.
  • The University of Georgia contracts with Delaware and South Carolina.
  • Iowa State University contracts with North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, and Connecticut.
  • Kansas State University has an agreement with North Dakota.
  • The University of Minnesota holds contracts with North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • Mississippi State University holds places for students from South Carolina and West Virginia.
  • Oklahoma State University admits students from Arkansas and Delaware.
  • Oregon State University is affiliated with Arizona, Hawaii, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Wyoming.
  • Tuskegee University admits students from Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, West Virginia at in-state rates.
  • Washington State University holds contracts with Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming.

The number of students from each states varies, and some states, particularly in the Northeast, have no formalized contracts for vet student tuition. The savings can be considerable; consider that The Ohio State University has no contracts with other states, and out-of-state tuition was more than $62,000 in 2014.

(Data provided by Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges)

At the same time that geography affects a student’s admission chances and finances, emerging trends in veterinary medicine education are focusing in two areas: evidence-based veterinary medicine and the “One Health” concept that bridges human and animal sciences. Last month, the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) joined nine new other associations who became members of the Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC), which promotes the overlapping interests of human medicine, veterinary medicine, public health and even environmental issues. 

The trends don’t play directly into meeting the deficits of veterinarians needed for rural areas and food animal industries.

It takes some digging, but there are proposals floating in academic and professional circles to re-define the profession of veterinary medicine practice in order to meet the perceived demand for veterinary service providers. A 2009 article in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine Education asked, “Does the profession’s foresight include a mid-tier professional similar to physician assistants?” Colorado State University (CSU) re-floated the idea of the veterinary equivalent of a “physician’s assistant” in human medicine during the Colorado Veterinary Medical Association’s “Big Ideas Forum“; the CSU concept was featured in DVM Newsmagazine to stimulate discussion.

Geography and the demand from students who want to go to vet school probably were behind today’s University of Delaware (UD) announcement of a new partnership with St. George’s University, located on the Caribbean island of Grenada. 

The new program at Delaware will enable more qualified UD undergraduates to pursue advanced medical and veterinary degrees by attending St. George’s.

Upon receiving their bachelor’s degrees, qualified students from UD will have the option to pursue a degree in medicine or veterinary medicine at St. George’s. Vet students will spend three years in Grenada before completing their final clinical year elsewhere.

UD joined 15 other colleges and universities in the United States, United Kingdom and Canada that have partnered with St. George’s University.

St. George’s 15,000 graduates include physicians, veterinarians, scientists, and public health and business professionals across the world.

But what happens when a St. George’s graduate wants to practice veterinary medicine in the United States? St. George’s University School of Veterinary Medicine is listed as accredited by the American Veterinary Medical Association; the school’s website advises that graduates qualify for entrance into the Educational Commission for Foreign Veterinary Graduates (ECFVG) or the Program for the Assessment of Veterinary Education Equivalence (PAVE) certification programs.

To learn more:

Virginia Tech’s “Becoming a Vet” website for applicants

Texas Tech’s announcement for a proposed West Texas vet school

AVMA 2015 Report on the Market for Veterinary Education: Summary




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