Veterinary academic debt continues to rise

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According to a presentation by Bridgette Bain, PhD, Associate Director of Analytics at AVMA, student debt in the education sector is growing 4.5 times as fast as new veterinary graduate incomes.

Dr. Bain spoke about “Supply and Demand in the Veterinary Education Market” at the annual AVMA Business Summit, October 26-28, drawing on data largely from the AVMA 2020 Seniors Survey. She said the way student debts increase faster than entry-level salaries is not sustainable.

According to Bridgette Bain, PhD, Associate Director of Analytics at AVMA, who presented data from the AVMA Senior Survey 2020 in October, the debt-to-income ratio of new vets is increasing with a current ratio of 2: 1. 28 on the virtual AVMA Economic Summit. (Enlarge)

“We need to keep our eyes on it so that we can develop strategies and counteract them,” she said.

Although the overall debt-to-income ratio has increased, debt for 2020 veterinary students varies significantly depending on the institution.

For example, Washington State University and Purdue University had a decrease in the average debt for veterinary medicine by more than 10%, while Mississippi State University and Auburn University had increases of more than 15%.

“This means there is a conversation to be had,” said Dr. Bain. “What can the schools that manage to do a PhD … with a (from year to year) debt reduction, teach the schools whose debt levels are up to 20% year on year? What can we learn from each other in order to have a better situation for the entire profession? “

Dr. Bain also discussed data showing that the debt burden varies by race. Black or African American graduates owed more debt than their peer graduates. White or Caucasian students had the least amount of debt.

Other key points that were highlighted during the session are:

  • The average educational debt of all U.S. veterinary graduates for 2020, including those with no debt, was $ 157,146.
  • 94 percent of the graduates secured full-time employment or had accepted a position in advanced training two weeks before graduation.
  • Nineteen percent of veterinary students graduated with a debt-to-income ratio of zero; 20 percent graduated with a 4: 1 ratio. The average debt-to-income ratio was 2: 1.
  • On average, women have a higher debt-to-income ratio than men.
  • Thirty-nine undergraduate students, or 1.4% of 2020 graduates, have degrees with debt greater than the total cost of their veterinary training.
  • Students who reported a major life event during their veterinary training were in more debt than those who did not. Students who had to repeat courses also had higher levels of debt. 46 percent of all indebted students had a budget.
  • The majority of 2020 graduates said they plan to move into companion animal medicine, while 33.3% said they were going through advanced training, including an internship, residency, or doctoral program. However, the percentage of graduates who reported doing internships is falling.
  • The average weighted starting salary for students entering full-time employment was $ 90,722.
  • The possible effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on starting salaries cannot yet be foreseen. In comparison, the effects of the financial crisis of 2008 could only be observed in 2010, said Dr. Bain.
  • Seventy percent of veterinary graduates said their job offers have not changed due to COVID-19. However, 3%, or about 90 students, said their offer had been withdrawn or withdrawn.

“Although salaries increased between 2019 and 2020, we still have to understand the impact of COVID-19 on entry-level salaries,” said Dr. Bain. “We’ve been good so far, but as things develop we’ll see what will happen.”