Minnesota Loan Program Addresses Rural Veterinarian Shortages

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The Minnesota Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program offers up to $75,000 in debt relief over five years to veterinary school students at the University of Minnesota. (Photo courtesy of University of Minnesota)

Setting the stage for long-term success, the Minnesota Rural Veterinarian Loan Repayment Program is strengthening the state’s food animal medical workforce and empowering student veterinarians by offering up to $75,000 in debt relief over five years.

Since its launch in 2018, this initiative addresses the issue of inadequate veterinary services in remote areas of the state, a challenge especially burdensome for livestock producers. Additionally, it eases the financial strain on current veterinary medical students and recent graduates.

Enrolled University of Minnesota (U of M) Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine candidates are eligible if they are in their final year or if they are alumni who have graduated within the last three years. They must commit to working full time for five years in specific rural counties, dedicating half of their responsibilities to caring for food animals.

Annual awards can total up to $15,000. The Minnesota Office of Higher Education operates the program, which receives $375,000 annually for the project from the state legislature.

Each year, about 10-12 U of M students who earn a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine choose to practice food animal medicine. While associate veterinarians in this field had the lowest mean salary across private practice types in 2022 —approximately $95,000 — veterinary office owners reported the highest mean salary at $225,000, according to the American Veterinary Association.

More than 30 students have participated in the repayment program so far, according to Laura Molgaard, dean of the U of M College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Young veterinarians consider many factors when deciding where to practice and what kind of animals they care for,” she said in a statement. “Loan repayment programs like this help make rural practices that treat food animals more attractive.”