The good news is that the starting salaries of veterinarians as well as the number of full-time employees in the profession are increasing. And many veterinary colleges have seen a year-over-year decrease in graduate student debt. The bad news is that about the same number of institutions have seen graduate student debt increase, sometimes by as much as 29%. And American graduates from two Caribbean veterinary schools have more debt than graduates from American schools, but see the same starting salaries.
Bridgette Bain, PhD, Associate Director of Analysis at AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Division, presented these results from the AVMA Class of 2019 Survey during a keynote address at the Economic Summit in AVMA 2019, held October 22-23 in Rosemont, Illinois. She said she would like to see more participation from Caribbean schools to develop a better understanding of their unique challenges and needs. The response rate this year was 45% of US veterinary medicine students at Ross University in Basseterre, Saint Kitts, and Saint George University in Grenada, both located in the West Indies.
Among veterinary students surveyed this year, 28% said they were pursuing an internship after graduation, which is the lowest percentage since 2009. Meanwhile, half said they were heading towards pet medicine. The percentages of those moving into animal and equine medicine have remained stable at around 3.5% and 1.2%, respectively.
The average starting salary for 2019 U.S. graduates finding full-time employment prior to graduation was $ 84,982. The actual weighted average starting salary, in 2014 dollars, increased from $ 73,626 in 2017 to $ 76,633 in 2018 to $ 78,413 in 2019. These figures are weighted to take into account changes in gender and type of practice. and region.
“Incomes are still not back to where they should be if there had been no financial crisis,” said Dr Bain, referring to the Great Recession. “The number of new vets and salaries were down during the recession, but since 2013 more new graduates are finding jobs and with higher starting salaries. “
She also noted that the gender income gap has narrowed from 4% to 3% over the past year. Women veterinarians are still generally offered a lower starting salary than their male colleagues. They have a slightly lower average school debt, with approximately $ 150,000 in school debt for female vets and $ 146,000 for male vets.
The overall debt-to-income ratio among graduate veterinarians fell from 2.26: 1 in 2018 to 1.81: 1 in 2019, bringing it closer to the DIR of 1.86: 1 in 2017. Dr Bain said that The inclusion for the first time of the two new veterinary colleges at Midwestern University in Glendale, Ariz., and Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, Tennessee, contributed the most to last year’s sharp increase.
The average school debt of all 2019 graduates of U.S. veterinary colleges, including those without debt, was around $ 149,877. Actual average school debt, in 2014 dollars, has increased from $ 133,086 in 2017 to $ 143,121 in 2018 and $ 138,000 in 2019. Dr. Bain estimates that the average graduate student debt could reach around $ 190,000. in 10 years.
About 17% of veterinary graduates reported no debt, a percentage that has increased over the past five years. Excluding this group, the actual average student debt of graduates this year was closer to $ 185,000 in 2014 dollars. About 61% of students borrowed up to $ 50,000 more than the total cost of education plus the interests. About one-third borrowed between $ 50,000 and $ 100,000 of the total cost plus interest. AVMA economists calculate the total cost of education plus interest using the cost of attendance released by the veterinary college each year and estimating the interest rate on loans at the start of each semester.
The percentage of 2019 graduates who had a debt-to-income ratio of zero, 21%, is almost equal to the percentage of those who had a DIR equal to or greater than 4: 1, 20%.
From 2018-19, about half of veterinary colleges saw a decrease in average graduate educational debt, led by the University of Pennsylvania to an overall reduction of 31.7%, followed by Cornell University to 15.3 %. However, almost as many institutions saw an increase in average graduate educational debt, with the University of Florida recording the largest increase at 29.3%, followed by Midwestern University at 23.7%.
This is partly related to tuition fees. Average annual tuition fees for residents have inflated from $ 10,549 in 1999 to $ 30,392 in 2019. For average annual tuition fees for non-residents, this figure has increased from $ 20,857 in 2001 to 49,934 $ in 2019.
Student debt held by U.S. veterinary graduates from Ross University and St. George’s University remains overall much higher than that of graduates from U.S. veterinary schools, even when considering only those who pay the fees. tuition fees for non-residents. That’s a difference of about $ 90,000, for an average school debt of $ 274,942 for US graduates of the two Caribbean schools compared to $ 184,931 for non-resident graduates of US veterinary colleges this year. Dr. Bain looked at these differences in more depth in a recent report in JAVMA (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2019; 255: 1137-1141).
At the same time, said Dr Bain, there is no statistical difference in starting salaries between graduates of US veterinary colleges and US graduates of these two Caribbean veterinary colleges.
This explains why the overall debt-to-income ratio in 2019 was 3.34: 1 for U.S. graduates of Caribbean schools who found full-time employment, compared to 1.81: 1 for U.S. college graduates. Among US graduates of Caribbean schools, 15% had a zero DIR and 41% had a DIR of 4: 1 or higher.
Lisa Greenhill, PhD, EdD, senior director of institutional research and diversity at the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, noted that students choose veterinary schools for more reasons than just cost. She said that often students who have a lot of debt have had major incidents during school, such as a divorce or a medical emergency.