Newswise — A bill approved by the Kansas Legislature and recently signed into law by Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius will benefit veterinary students and rural Kansas communities, according to Ralph Richardson, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University.
The law establishes the "Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas" at K-State's College of Veterinary Medicine.
The program will provide opportunities and incentives for students pursuing a veterinary medicine degree at K-State to locate their veterinary practice in rural Kansas communities and serve the livestock industry after they graduate, Richardson said.
A maximum of five students can be enrolled in the program each year, starting in their first year of veterinary college. Each student will receive $20,000 a year for up to four years, to cover tuition and training expenses. In turn, the students will practice veterinary medicine full time in any county in Kansas that has a population of 35,000 or less. The amount of loan forgiveness is determined by how much assistance was received. For each $20,000 a student receives, they will be required to spend a year working in the rural community.
"Other states have passed legislation for a debt forgiveness program; but to my knowledge, Kansas is the first state to pass legislation and appropriate funds for this sort of program," Richardson said.
Many reports from the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges cite shortages of large animal veterinarians, Richardson said. Over the last several decades, the demand for companion animal care has increased dramatically. Many graduates would like to practice in a rural setting, however, they often say that the main reason for not pursuing rural practice is an inability to earn an adequate income and service their educational debt. As a result, many new graduates have been attracted to companion animal care rather than livestock-related veterinary medicine, he said.
"K-State is committed to being a leading institution in large animal veterinary care, animal science, biosecurity and food safety. This new law is one part of a larger undertaking to remain at the forefront of this effort," Richardson said.
"We are dedicated to supporting the livestock industry," he said. "We believe that veterinarians create a positive influence on communities of all types, particularly small, rural communities. This act removes educational debt as a stumbling block for those who wish to make their homes in rural Kansas."