A bill to establish a loan repayment program for large-animal veterinarians is working its way through the House. HB 1181 made it through the House Education committee Wednesday on an easy 14–0 vote, including the aye of our own Rep. Mitch Fargen, a co-sponsor of the bill. (Keep up the good work, Mitch!)
This bill is a good idea. It addresses the shortage of rural vets in South Dakota, which, as we discussed here back in November, is compounded by high student loan debt. To be eligible for money under the program, the vet needs to work in a community smaller than 15,000 people (no limit on number of cattle or sheep, though).
Unfortunately, the bill caps participation in the loan repayment program to three vets at a time. O.K., that covers Bison, Lemmon, and Faith; how about all the other communities having trouble getting cow docs?
Enter HB 1248, introduced by Fargen's District 8 counterpart Rep. Gerry Lange. HB 1248, backed by a lot of the same folks who have signed on to HB 1181, would authorize $30 million for the construction of a college of veterinary medicine on the SDSU campus by June 30, 2016. Train those vets here, benefit from their services during their internships, and have first crack at recuriting them upon graduation. Now that's big thinking!
(Not to mention, as Mayor Munsterman and the SDSU folks will happily tell you, every dollar in tuition turns over seven times in the community. Total ballparking, but 50 students paying $100K each over four years... golly gee, that's $35 million in local economic activity.)
Helping veterinarians repay their burdensome loans is a good start. Establishing our own veterinary school to work in conjunction with our already outstanding animal science program at SDSU would be a spectacular long-term investment in South Dakota's agricultural economy.
The vet school bill goes to House Appropriations at 8 a.m. Friday. Reps. Putnam, Tidemann, et al., think big, and moooove HB 1248 to the House!
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