A bill that would expand scholarships to veterinary students in the Kansas State University College of Veterinary Medicine who pledge to return to practice in the state has passed a final House vote 121-6.
HB 2605 would change the loan amount appropriated from the state, from $20,000 per year to $25,000. It also expands the program to counties having populations of 40,000 or less instead of 35,000.
66th District State Rep. Sydney Carlin, of Manhattan, spoke in favor of the bill on the House Floor Wednesday.
“I think we made some really good improvements to protect rural, veterinary practices and to bring veterinarians into the rural areas,” she said.
Another proponent of the bill is 51st District State Rep. Ron Highland, of Wamego, who himself is a veterinarian. He says the bill is being fine tuned to include an oversight committee.
“Veterinary medicine like all the medicines nowadays are encouraging more specialization and wanting people to go into research, but what’s being left behind is the excellent practitioner. We want to select the best and brightest and we want them to be in our agriculture areas,” he said.
The program was first introduced in 2006 as an annual state appropriated loan program of $400,000, paid out to five students in $20,000 installations each of their four years in school. Under the amended bill, it would become a $500,000 appropriation.
Highland says it’s a key need in rural Kansas.
“Currently over 40 percent of our revenue is agriculture in this state. We have heard over and over again how we need more rural practitioners. This bill makes an attempt to do that, it’s worked in the past,” he said.
Carlin added that it’s not an uncommon tactic to retain skilled employees.
“We’ve done it in other areas, other kinds of professional practices. I don’t know what’s currently on the books, but we have had other practices that have had opportunities to pay their loans this way,” she said.
The bill now moves onto the Senate.
Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Bonnie Rush tested before a House committee last week about the need to expand the program. You can see her remarks at this link.