In all disciplines, US educational debt has increased more than 100% in the past 10 years, according to Federal Reserve economic data.
Bridgette Bain, PhD, Associate Director of Analytics, AVMA Veterinary Economics Division, spoke during the How Debt is Changing the Face of the Profession session at the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges Annual Virtual Conference and Iverson Bell Symposium on Educational Debt, 3rd-5th March.
Average debt among veterinary graduates continues to rise, and those who take up private practice tend to have the highest debts, said Dr. Bain.
The average debt accumulated during veterinary school is about $ 160,000, according to data from the 2020 AVMA Senior Survey, which in the JAVMA edition of the 15th graduate aspiring to private practice had an average salary of $ 90,000 Dollars, while public practice graduates made less and higher education graduates even less.
Dr. Bain said that ideally there should be no link between debt and sector, but there is evidence of it.
How students pay for tuition is also an indicator of educational debt, said Dr. Bain. For example, if students pay the tuition fees from their families, the average debt is significantly lower than if the student covers the same tuition fees through scholarships or savings.
Graduates’ educational debts grow by approximately $ 5,800 each year. Even though a subset of students graduate without debt, black students with more than $ 100,000 in debt, on average, graduate more than white graduates. The average debt of white graduates in 2020 was $ 151,174, compared to $ 249,436 for black graduates.
If the educational debt problem in veterinary medicine goes unchecked, there is a risk of satiation for those who can afford to attend veterinary school, said Dr. Bain.
Currently, the typical veterinary graduate is a suburban white woman, and studies have shown that veterinarians prefer to work in areas and open hospitals or clinics similar to their childhoods. If this trend continues, there could be areas in the US that have a higher density of veterinarians than others, said Dr. Bain. That could have economic implications, she added.
This trend could also lead to a lack of diversity within the profession, said Dr. Bain, not just racially and ethnically, but also in terms of the type of practice.
From 2001-20, 1.1-2.5% of graduates in each veterinary class planned to serve in uniformed service. Graduates entering the uniformed service tend to have the lowest debt and income.
AVMA data shows that the number of students opting for uniformed services is declining. In recent years, Dr. Bain, the world has faced the rapid spread of zoonotic diseases, so veterinarians are needed on the front lines to fight disease. The vet is trained to be helpful in these unique conditions.
“We don’t want to see a decline in uniformed services because graduates feel that they cannot (affordably) accept such a poorly paid position,” said Dr. Bain.