The Vet School Scam Part II: Potential Solutions Brainstormed

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????As my website name is Veterinary Brainstorm and the prior post brought up some terrific discussion, I will dedicate the following post to some proposed, potentially controversial solutions in a brainstorming format. Please take a moment to refresh yourself with Part I. Please note, I may or may not agree with these ideas. They are simply compiled from studies and discussions within the industry, and are listed to inspire more ideas, not to argue about what’s right and wrong.
During my VPI lectures to veterinary students across the country, I discuss ways to help our stagnant salary, which is currently reliant on discretionary income, meet the challenges of our exponentially rising student debt incurred by ever-rising tuition costs. The dilemma for them (and myself) is the debt is fixed, but we can alter our salaries in the short-term.

So the brainstorm session will commence focusing on 2 pieces of the puzzle:

  1. Student debt: How do we control it?

  2. Veterinary Salaries- How do we increase it in a socially responsible way?

Considering that rising student debt costs is a problem for all graduate education, the government, as the largest lender needs to get involved now.
  • The AVMA House of Delegates in July 2014 voted to approve a resolution recommending the AVMA actively pursue legislation to reduce the interest rate on veterinary student debt. It is currently 6.8% vs. 3.86% for undergraduate loans. Should it really be cheaper to finance a car than an education?
  • Continue to fund and expand programs for veterinary loan repayment programs in areas in need of veterinarians.
  • Reinstate the in-school interest subsidy for federal student loan money borrowed by graduate students.
  • The government should cap the amount eligible to be borrowed. Currently, the government will lend the amount of tuition and fees that the college submits on a worksheet to the government. Since students will borrow almost infinitely, this has led to almost no cap on graduate education expenses. While most universities are non-profit, that does not mean that they cannot use additional funding. If the government will guarantee tuition and the consumer will borrow it, who controls the price?

Create an informed profession and pre-profession.

  • The VIN foundation is the first organization to educate the pre-veterinary community on these economic issues.
  • Educate prospective students on what they are embarking in by speaking at high schools, colleges, pre-veterinary clubs.
    • 28% of respondents in a 2013 California VMA veterinary survey said they might not have become veterinarians if they had known about the debt-to earnings ratio.
    • Some veterinarians argue, becoming a veterinarian is a dream and money won’t factor in to students decisions. Since when do we stop making information available because of what may happen?
  • AVMA Economic Summit held its second annual meeting this year. They presented on many veterinary economic issues and are focused on more complete data collection to assess the veterinary business sector more clearly.
    • Goals of the data analysis include determining the capacity and supply of veterinarians, monitoring student debt and starting salaries, reporting on job growth.

Increase the starting salary ($67,000 is the mean in 2013).

  • Step away from reliance on discretionary spending. At the 2014 AVMA Economic Summit, Dr. Dicks reported that the profession is vulnerable to downward trends in the economy. “For every $1,000 drop in personal disposable income, veterinary practice income declines by nearly $1,700.” “Veterinary care spending, particularly for pets, is discretionary spending, and the recent recession provided added evidence of that.”
    • Embrace and implement wellness plans.
    • Embrace and educate owners on pet insurance. If we do not have an answer or recommendation for our clients they may purchase the wrong products and/or have unrealistic expectations.
    • Educate owners that Dr. Google is not the first place to go for information on their pet’s healthcare. (Neither is the breeder or the pet store).

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      Partners for Healthy Pets Consumer Campaign
  • Create more productive associate veterinarians from the start.
    • Select vet students for leadership potential and business acumen in addition to a mind for science.
    • Teach leadership and business skills in veterinary school. Students need to know how to communicate well with staff and clients, especially with regards to financial health care decisions.
    • Get students the hands-on and surgical experience they need to be comfortable right out of school.
  • Create a feline friendly practice.
  • Carve out a niche market.
  • Embrace new technology and social media to communicate with the general public.

Please keep brainstorming!

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2 thoughts on “The Vet School Scam Part II: Potential Solutions Brainstormed”

  1. A great set of ideas. I especially agree with the capping of student loan amounts. The way our loans are set up doesn’t make sense. They calculate average student living expenses and then allow you to take out that much. If students have ways to supplement their loans (family members, jobs, etc) then feasibly the average spending could go up yearly. I think it would be a good way to keep price pressure on graduate schools.

  2. Michelle, great Blog and LOVE to BRAINSTORM. Since I am from the veterinary team side, I know first-hand, how cumbersome it can be for a new veterinary student to “hit the floor running,” and be as productive and efficient as possible the first year or two. A possible solution, offer a mini-course in veterinary school that helps the student learn to trust & delegate, leveraging time and the team. A win/win situation. A mini-course may look something like this:
    Trust + Delegation=Profitability
    Trust + Delegation = Increased patient care
    Trust + Delegation = Team satisfaction
    You get the picture. I am reading an incredible book title The Speed of Trust! I can see how it directly applies to veterinarians, new and vintage.

    I am happy to be presenting on this topic at SAVMA this Spring!
    CheeriO, RR

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