Vet School Loan Repayments in Exchange for Serving in Areas Need Vet Care

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded more than $4.5 million to 51 American veterinarians to help repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in return for serving in areas lacking sufficient veterinary resources. The awards, made through the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VMLRP), will fill shortage needs in 22 states.

“Rural America is facing challenges in the veterinary service field. Veterinarians are choosing to work in locations that offer higher pay in order to pay off their high student loan debts, causing a shortage of veterinarians in rural areas,” said Sonny Ramaswamy, NIFA director. “This program offers loan-repayment assistance to veterinarians, allowing them to work in more rural areas and fill shortages. This ultimately improves the health of livestock and provides a healthy and safe food supply for America.”

Veterinarians are critical to America’s food safety and food security and to the health and well-being of both animals and humans. Studies indicate there are significant shortages of food animal veterinarians in certain areas of the country, and in high-priority specialty sectors that require advanced training, such as food safety, epidemiology, diagnostic medicine and public health. A leading cause for this shortage is the heavy cost of four years of professional veterinary medical training which leaves current graduates of veterinary colleges with an average debt burden of $134,470.

Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association-accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree or the equivalent. Loan repayments made by the VMLRP are taxable income to participants. Also included in the award is a federal tax payment equal to 39% of the loan payment to offset the increase in income tax liability.

This is the second year NIFA has made renewal awards through VMLRP. Previous awardees with educational debt surpassing $75,000, the maximum award amount, are eligible to apply for a renewal award. Renewal applications follow the same competitive review process as new applications, and submission of a renewal application does not necessarily mean the veterinarian will received continued VMLRP benefits.

In fiscal year 2014, NIFA received 163 applications and made 51 awards. Below is a breakdown of the fiscal year 2014 awards:

  • 163 applications, 51 awards, success rate of 31.3 percent
    • NEW: 137 applications, 39 awards, success rate of 28.5 percent
    • RENEWAL: 26 applications, 12 awards, success rate of 46.2 percent
    • 51 awards totaling $4,568,621 (includes loan and tax payments)
      • 39 new awards totaling $3,824,355
      • 12 renewal awards totaling $744,268
      • Average award: $89,581 (includes loan and tax payments)
        • Average new award: $98,060
        • Average renewal award: $62,022
        • Average eligible debt for repayment on new awards: $134,470
        • 79 percent of new recipients (31 of 39) received the maximum payment of $25,000 per year (plus taxes)
        • 62 percent of new recipients (24 of 39) obtained their Doctor of Veterinary Medicine within the last three years

        A map is available online describing each shortage area filled in FY 2014.

        Participants are required to serve in one of three types of shortage situations. Awardees filling Type 1 shortages areas must dedicate at least 80% of their time to provision of food animal veterinary services. Type 2 shortages are rural areas in which awardees are obligated to provide food animal veterinary services at least 30% of their time. Type 3 shortage areas are dedicated to public practice and awardees must commit at least 49% of their time.

        • 22 states will fill at least one shortage area through a new VMLRP award
        • Shortage type breakdown (all awards)
          • Type I (at least 80% private practice):
            9 awards
          • Type II (at least 30% private practice):
            36 awards
          • Type III: (at least 49% public practice):
            6 awards

          The National Institutes of Health Division of Loan Repayment provided their expertise in service to NIFA during the applicant review process by reviewing loan documents submitted by the applicants.

          Through federal funding and leadership for research, education and extension programs, NIFA focuses on investing in science and solving critical issues impacting people’s daily lives and the nation’s future. For more information, visit

          USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, S.W., Stop 9410, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call toll-free at 866-632-9992 (English) or 800-877-8339 (TDD) or 866-377-8642 (English Federal-relay) or 800-845-6136 (Spanish Federal-relay).

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