Letters to the Editor

Starting salaries and educational debt of year-2018 veterinary college graduates

Our thanks to Drs. Bain and Salois for bringing back an improved summary report1 of the AVMA's annual survey of fourth-year veterinary medical students. We especially value the information regarding benefits and the histograms showing distributions of starting salaries and educational debt for new graduates, and we appreciate that mean and median values for educational debt accumulated during veterinary college were calculated both including and excluding respondents reporting zero debt.

That said, we also believe that providing some additional information would be beneficial. For example, it is good news that the percentage of respondents who accepted positions with annual starting salaries ≥ $100,000 has become the largest bar on the starting salary histogram, other than the bar for those who accepted positions in advanced education. However, it is bad news that the percentage reporting educational debt ≥ $250,000 has become the largest bar on the debt histogram. To provide pertinent detail and resolution, we suggest that the displayed ranges for both histograms be increased so the extreme ends of the ranges are among the smallest, not the largest, bars on the histogram.

Also, each year, we see the graduation of nearly 1,000 individuals who attended foreign veterinary medical colleges accredited by the AVMA Council on Education and were eligible to receive student loans through US federal programs. The cost of education at many of these colleges is equivalent to that for the most expensive veterinary colleges in the United States. Thus, just as the mean student debt jumped with inclusion of Lincoln Memorial University and Midwestern University graduates (180 students), including US citizen graduates from foreign accredited veterinary schools will likely increase the mean student debt further. Although we understand the challenge of gathering information for those students, to get a better understanding of the overall debt situation for individuals entering the veterinary profession, it would be useful to include in the survey graduates from accredited foreign veterinary colleges who are US citizens and eligible for US federal student loans. If those data are unavailable, then it would be helpful to acknowledge that fact in the report.

We also believe it would be informative to present data categorized on the basis of whether respondents paid discounted (eg, in-state) or nondiscounted (eg, out-of-state, private college, and foreign college) tuition rates. Students eligible for discounted tuition rates likely have substantially lower educational debt than those who pay nondiscounted rates.

Because reports of this type are read by stakeholders across the profession, we hope future analyses will examine differences in salary and total benefits by gender, practice size, and educational debt. Also, information on individual debt-to-income ratios has been provided in greater detail in previous economic reports, and a histogram with those data would be valuable in the summary report.

Finally, in our experience, students often underestimate their total educational loan balance because they omit interest accrued while in school. It is also difficult to separate veterinary educational debt from preveterinary educational debt at the time the survey is conducted. Including preveterinary debt would help to fully represent the financial reality colleagues face at the time of graduation.

Again, we commend the authors on a useful and important report. We do, however, believe the AVMA membership and veterinary profession would benefit greatly if raw data from the survey were available for others to analyze and discuss, rather than the limited analyses provided.

Paul D. Pion, dvm

Tony Bartels, dvm, mba

Veterinary Information Network Davis, Calif

Lance M. Roasa, dvm, ms, jd

The Roasa Law Group Drip. Vet Omaha, Neb

1. Bain B, Salois M. Facts & Figures: Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2018 graduates of US veterinary medical colleges. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2019;254:10611066.

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The authors respond:

We appreciate both the interest in and the attentiveness to our recent article in JAVMA on the issue of student debt. Drs. Pion, Bartels, and Roasa raise excellent points, and we could not agree more with them on their thoughtful ideas. As the AVMA economics team continues its economic outreach on this topic through our reports, events, and other platforms, we will begin to incorporate these suggestions where possible.

Bridgette Bain, phd

Matthew Salois, phd

AVMA Schaumburg, Ill

  • 1. Bain B, Salois M. Facts & Figures: Employment, starting salaries, and educational indebtedness of year-2018 graduates of US veterinary medical colleges. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2019;254:10611066.

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation