Fast-Track Vet School in Arizona?

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University of Arizona administrators are asking the state legislature for $250,000 to study the feasibility of starting a veterinary school at that Tucson institution. The Arizona model borrows from veterinary schools in many foreign countries and would offer an accelerated program of undergraduate study and veterinary classes. The plan would allow students to complete their undergraduate requirements (without receiving a degree) in two years. Students admitted to veterinary school then could complete the professional degree program in three years, with year-around classes.

Goals of the proposal include a significant reduction in student loan debt, a fast track into the veterinary profession and increased opportunities for Arizona residents to attend a veterinary school as in-state students. Students in the United States typically spend at least four years earning an undergraduate degree before applying to vet school, then take another four years of classes before graduating with a professional degree. Estimates from proponents of the plan cite potential savings of $60,000-$70,000 by eliminating tuition and other expenses for two years of undergraduate study and a year of living expenses for vet students.

The Arizona plan does not include a teaching hospital. Instead, students will be placed at private veterinary practices throughout the state to gain clinical experience. The plan’s supporters say this will expose the students to real-world situations while allowing them to make business contacts that might lead to post-graduation employment.

If the Arizona plan is adopted, the school could admit its first class in August 2015. By then, Midwestern University, a private, not-for-profit institution with branches in Arizona and Illinois, plans to open its own vet school in Glendale. Midwestern currently offers degree programs in a number of healthcare professions and plans to offer a traditional four-year veterinary curriculum. The inaugural class, numbering 100 students, is scheduled to begin studies in August 2014.