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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Legislature Working on Veterinarian Loan Forgiveness; Now How About Vet School?

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!


  1. Look...We can add yet one more set of majors to our higher ed system.

    You just watch Cory: in three years you will see a dramatic shrinkage in the amount of areas of study available on SD college campuses.

  2. I suggest we turn the law school at USD into a vet school. We have more than enough lawyers and not enough vets.

    Todd D. Epp, Esq.
    SD Watch http://www.southdakotawatch.net

  3. These ideas are only 100 years late, but better late than never.

    We'd be happy to give up half the state's planes, two-thirds of the counties and school districts, several million from the bloated transportation and tourism budgets - in order to pay for it.

  4. I think we need to start cutting programs that overlap anyways. Why do we need a B.S. in Computer science degree at SDSU, USD, Mines, and DSU?

  5. Hey Anonymous, why do you predict a shrinkage? The legislature did something I've never seen before this year by appropriating money for a Masters in Social Work.

  6. I have another idea if neither of these bills go anywhere. I'm the parent of a vet who attended ISU several years ago, so I know whereof I speak here. At the time my child went there SD paid the out of state tuition for eight vet students who were technically SD residents (I say technically because there were residency questions on some of these recipients). But to continue, only eight SD students got the money, the rest got nothing.

    Why not take this money that the state is spending on eight slots and divide that money equally between all actual SD residents attending ISU. This would also lessen the debt burden equally on all equally deserving SD students.

    Or if you are targeting large animal vets, give the money to those pursuing a large animal degree.

    The recipients did have to return to SD to practice X amount of years or had to repay the money.

    This idea of equally distributing the money and helping more students with their debt load would be cost neutral to the state. The state already pays the money, but this would help more students. I think this idea has merit because I doubt that a vet school at Brookings will fly in this economic climate.

  7. Good Plan B, Anon 3:42! And you know I'm all about sharing the wealth. ;-)

    Hard sell in this economic climate? Maybe, but we're talking $30M over the next six fiscal years. That's plenty of time for a recovery, plenty of time for the Herseth Sandlin-Fargen administration to reform our tax structure, and plenty of time for the SDSU Foundation to track down a few well-to-do animal science alums who might think a vet school at their alma mater would be peachy keen. Think future, think big!

  8. Part of the problem with large animal vet shortage is due to a larger number of vet students being women. And I'm not being sexist or anything like that. Most women simply do not want to or aren't physically able to do the work of a large animal vet.

    A second reason is that small animal medicine is much more lucrative, cleaner, safer for the most part (cat bites can be dangerous for real!), and some graduates change to small animal for the above reasons.

    A vet school at Brookings would actually be very nice. But has Gerry Lange looked into the actual cost of the vet schools at ISU or Kansas or Minnesota? It is hugely expensive, and that is probably why the state and BOR fund a few slots at ISU instead of building our own school. Does he have actual figures for the cost?

    Maybe the vet schools should reserve X amount of slots for large animal vets. Right now admission is simply based on GPA, I believe, and little weight given to anything else.

    Just ideas to think about.

    Still think equally distributing state aid to SD residents at any out of state vet school would be immensely helpful to all students, not just a select few each year.

  9. One further idea to anon 3:42 that I forgot.

    By increasing the number of students who have an obligation to South Dakota, it is likely that more will return to South Dakota and a larger percentage of these will probably remain in South Dakota to practice. It would be a win-win situation for both the students and South Dakota.

  10. The same fate that is causing USF, a private university in Sioux Falls to retreat, cut staff, programs and payroll costs will reach our state-supported schools rather quickly, so Anon 12:19PM is right on target.

    Alumni and Endowment plans have lost between 25-35% of their value and investment income, tuition keeps advancing and school loans are becoming harder to get with lower student numbers.

    What jobs will these grads be able to find once they have their degree?

    The state can introduce new programs and ideas all it wants, but when reduced tax revenue and investment income reality hits Pierre in the coming year, you'll see agressive back-peddling of spending and forgiveness programs.

    Today's spending heroes will be tomorrow's zeros. Add to that the declining enrollment factor coming out of our high schools and supply/demand economics also kicks in.

    For the next two years, cash is king. Borrow what you can, put it away safely and ride the storm using it only as needed.


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