USDA accepting applications for loan repayment program
The USDA is inviting applications for its Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program, which will provide student loan debt relief for service in designated shortage areas across the United States.
Approximately $9.6 million is available for the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to administer the program. Funding for future years will be based on annual appropriations and balances from prior years, and will likely vary from year to year.
Participants may receive up to $25,000 in loan payments for each year of service, with a minimum of three years of service but no more than four. Applications will be accepted until June 30, with awards being offered by Sept. 30.
NIFA also released maps of state- and federally designated shortage areas on its Web site, www.nifa.usda.gov/nea/animals/in_focus/an_health_if_vmlrp.html, along with eligibility requirements, FAQs, and application forms.
A large number of veterinarians are anticipated to apply for the program. Some factors contributing to what is expected to be a robust applicant pool are a struggling U.S. economy and pent-up demand for the program by veterinary graduates who have patiently awaited action by the USDA.
Additionally, the rising cost of a veterinary education has forced students to borrow increasing amounts in the form of student loans, resulting in higher educational indebtedness at graduation. In 2009, the mean debt for graduating students who incurred debt was $129,976, while the mean starting salary for private practice veterinarians was $65,185, according to the AVMA.
There also continues to be a great need for more veterinarians across the country. Approximately 1,300 counties have fewer than one food supply veterinarian per 25,000 farm animals, and there are 500 counties with at least 5,000 farm animals that have no food supply veterinarians to treat them, according to the AVMA.
The complete rule is available on the U.S. Government Printing Office Web site, www.gpoaccess.gov.