USDA awards $4.5 million in loan repayments to veterinarians

The average veterinary student loan debt was $162,113 in 2013, a 6.9 percent increase from 2012, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. But the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is changing that for some veterinarians.

On Nov. 4, the USDA awarded more than $4.5 million to 49 American veterinarians to help them repay a portion of their veterinary school loans. In exchange, award recipients must serve in 1 of 26 states that lack sufficient veterinary resources. (See USDA's interactive map for locations.)

Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area, including food animal veterinary services (two types of awards), and public practice (the third award type). The commitment of time ranges from 30-80 percent of an award recipient's time, depending on the type of award. 

Loan repayment benefits are limited to payments of the principal and interest on government and commercial loans. And although loan repayments are taxable income, there is also a federal tax payment equal to 39 percent of the loan payment to offset the increase in the income tax liability.

This is the third year the funds have been awarded. In fiscal year (FY) 2015, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) received 137 applications and made 49 awards. The funding is available to new applicants as well as previous award winners with educational debt surpassing $75,000, the maximum award amount.

The current application period is closed; however, those interested can sign up to receive email notification when the application period re-opens.

Photo Credit: © iStock/NetaDegany