USDA is taking the first step toward addressing veterinary shortages throughout rural America by repaying the student loans of qualified veterinarians in return for their services in areas suffering from a lack of veterinarians. Implementation of the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program began Jan. 22, 2010 when the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, which administers the program, released a Federal Register notice asking for comments and nominations for shortage situations.
NIFA is asking chief animal health officials from each state and insular area and appropriate federal animal health officials to nominate areas where shortages exist. Those nominations are due Mar. 8. A panel of federal and state animal health experts will recommend submitted nomination packages for official designation as a veterinary shortage area. The public will be able to review the areas in list and/or map form, along with information describing the nature of the shortage situation.
In return for a commitment of three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area, NIFA may repay up to $25,000 of student loan debt per year. Benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans received for the attendance at an accredited college of veterinary medicine resulting in a degree of Doctor of Veterinary Medicine or the equivalent. NIFA projects applications will be due June 30 and offers will be made by Sept. 30.