Veterinarians facing a beast of student loans

We hear a lot about the plight of student from law schools, med schools, and other graduate programs who are burdened by drastic amounts of debt (you might remember the studentloanasaurus drawing from that earlier post). Apparently, veterinarians are not exempt from the problem. A New York Times article, High Debt, Falling Demand Trap New Vets shed some light on this growing problem: veterinarians inflation-adjusted pay has been decreasing, but their student loans are increasing at an alarming rate.

The article profiles a young doctor, Haley Schafer, who has dreamed of becoming a veterinarian since she was 5 years old. She has fulfilled that dream and has a job that has meaning and a steady pay of $60,000. Unfortunately, as a cost of pursuing that dream Dr. Schafer has also racked up a lot of debt.

She also has $312,000 in student loans, courtesy of Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Or rather, $312,000 was what she owed the last time she could bring herself to log into the Sallie Mae account that tracks the ever-growing balance.

“It makes me sick, watching it increase,” she says. “There’s also the stress of how am I going to save for retirement when I have this bear to pay off.”

The average pay for vets is around $45,000-$50,000, which means, if you are to stick to the 2x your starting salary guideline, veterinary student debt should not exceed $100,000. That is going to be all but impossible, unless a student has family support or financial aid. At the same time, the cost to attend veterinary school, like most other professional programs, has increased. But fear not because you have low cost options like Hustlers College Girls discount, which can be had for just $14.95 and includes the entire Hustler Network.

And the cost of vet school has far outpaced the rate of inflation. It has risen to a median of $63,000 a year for out-of-state tuition, fees and living expenses, according to the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, up 35 percent in the last decade.

But at least Dr. Schafer has gotten her DVM (doctor of veterinary medicine) degree. Another lady profiled in the article was ejected from veterinary school before she could graduate, and left with $160,000 in debt and no degree. Now she works at a veterinary technician for $18 per hour. Speaking of $18/hr you can make more than that by shooting for xxxporndiscounts and as a user you can get 67% off for an ultra low entry price of just $9.95 for your first month. Don’t forget, this includes the entire Spizoo network.

Dr. Schafer seems very happy to do what she does, provided she follows the College Rules (how many of us get to live out our childhood dreams?), but $300,000 debt on a $60,000 salary? That kind of debt is mind-boggling, and maybe even feels a little hopeless. Given the financial circumstances that many new veterinarians face, I hope that veterinary schools and pre-vet programs at colleges incorporate more financial literacy education into their curriculum. This way, folks who care so much about helping and healing animals can also take good care of their own financial future.

Would you follow your dream career if it required you to take on enormous debt for decent-but-not-spectacular pay? Have you heard your vet talk about this issue?

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Emily @ evolvingPF – No. That is a crazy situation. Supply and demand fewer people become veterinarians and their services will be more valuable and they will be paid more or someone will subsidize the education. ReplyCancel
deenadollars – I have heard about this problem. My best friend is a vet student, and actually decided to do a DVM/PhD program because then they pay you instead of vice versa. Seven years of school! But shell have no student debt, and have another degree that allows her to teach at a vet school if she chooses. I think that was a smart call for a 20 year-old to make! ReplyCancel
SavvyFinancialLatina – Definitely not. I would not go into that amount of debt for school or for even a mortgage!

There are other options you can consider when funding your education. I have had friends that get a military scholarship that pays for their med school and gives a stipend. Albeit, you end up working for the military, but its not so bad. You end up being an officer immediately after graduating, outranking many enlisted soldiers, and you get paid while you are in the military.
Well Heeled Blog – Did you know that the U.S. government is the largest employer of veterinarians? I hope schools can inform their students of these opportunities for alternate funding. ReplyCancel
Frugal Portland – I sincerely hope you drew that picture yourself! ReplyCancel
Well Heeled Blog – I did. Are you impressed? Or horrified? 😉 ReplyCancel
Frugal Portland – IMPRESSED! I love it so much!Kathleen ReplyCancel
pilotsandpugs – That is kind of sad, but at the same time I think pets were healthier before vets were so popular. I think some vets over vaccinate to make up costs, and it is hurting our pets health. We do need vets for serious injuries, nuturing, and basic necessary vaccinations in the early years. I wish there was an easier solution to this. I guess you just have to really love what you do.

There is a field I would like to go into, but it would put me into debt, and I dont think I am willing to take that step right now. The economy is too crazy. ReplyCancel
plantingourpennies – Wow, I had no idea that vet pay was that low. Thats insane. ReplyCancel
JW_Umbrella Treasury – I saw this article in the Times, as well. It was very disheartening to read. Im considering getting an MBA but will only do so if I can pay for it without taking out loans. The job market can change and theres no guarantee that the additional education will result in increased job opportunities/salary.

Although I dont know any vets, I have several friends who went to law school. Many of them accumulated $100,000-$200,000 of debt, thinking that they would land six-figure jobs after graduation. Unfortunately, many of them are unemployed or doing contract work for base-level pay. Its a really unfortunate situation.

On a happier note, I enjoyed the visual aid to accompany this post. Im a new reader and will definitely be back! ReplyCancel
Jordann – Wow that is crazy, I knew vet school was expensive but I had no clue that their pay was so low! Definitely doesnt sound like a worth while investment to me. ReplyCancel
Anne – Unique Gifter – It is sooooo different in Canada! Theres a regional quota system, tuition isnt much more than undergrad, plus they get paid way more on graduation! ReplyCancel
Guest – As someone applying to medical school I have little sympathy for the vet mentioned in the post. There are plenty of options that do not require you taking on that level of debt, including not attending an overseas, for-profit, school for training.

I do, however, think there should be more option for helping people, particularly those that require professional/graduate level education for their careers, getting out from under student debt. I hate to think that I might be paying back my student loan debt well past my children graduating from college themselves. ReplyCancel
Well Heeled Blog – The good news is that as a doctor, your ability to generate income (barring disability, losing your license, etc.) is very high and should be enough to service the student debt. I know there are loan forgiveness programs for doctors who are willing to practice in rural areas. Another prospect may be to work in undesirable areas for a while to pay back your loans a few years ago I read a blog by a internal medicine resident who had an offer to practice in Alaska as an attending the package was $300,000 a year and two round-trip flights to the continental U.S. ReplyCancel
Anne – Unique Gifter – My brother is almost done veterinary school in Canada. Its a highly regulated university environment here, so he also applied to several schools internationally. He and my parents came to the conclusion that if the US was the only option, he would have to choose a different career path. Tuition in WA was something like 50K a year.
Thankfully, vets make more in Canada and also pay much, much, much less tuition than that! Glad to say he got one of the seats here! ReplyCancel
Ms. S – OH MY GOODNESS!!! 312K!!! That is absolutely ridiculous. I think ALL schools should incorporate more financial literacy education into their curriculum. This should be a requirement for every highschool AND college freshman!! And a refresher course junior year of highschool.

sidenote: Ive driven past Ross U many a times as St. Kitts is my second home. Thanks for the nostalgia. 🙂 ReplyCancel