Banfield contributes $4 million to reduce veterinary student debt

Oh, sweet relief!

Just one year after launching its Veterinary Student Debt Relief Pilot Program, Banfield Pet Hospital has contributed more than $4 million to help reduce student debt for its more than 3,600 associate veterinarians, and enabled more than $10 million in student debt refinancing.

With studies indicating that student debt in the US has topped $1.5 trillion, $4 million may seem like a drop in the bucket, but recent surveys estimate that only 4% of companies in any field offer student loan repayment programs to employees, which puts Banfield well ahead of the curve—Banfield created its student debt relief program not only to support the financial health of its associates, but also to set the bar to help the veterinary profession address this critical industry-wide issue.

And the situation is critical.

According to figures from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the average student debt in 2017 for US veterinary school graduates was $138,067. However, That number doesn’t fully reflect the reality that faces students who do owe, because some students are able to graduate without borrowing money. Looking only at graduates who had to borrow money to pay for their education, the average debt is higher: $166,714.

Meanwhile, the average starting salary for new graduates increased from just under $40,000 to more than $58,000 from 2001 to 2016—a mean increase of $1,220 per year. These figures include graduates who found full-time employment as well as those who chose instead to pursue internships, residencies, and advanced education.

In 2016, that worked out to a discouraging debt-to-income (DIR) ratio of 2:1.

“Our goal with the Veterinary Student Debt Relief Pilot Program—and all of our health and wellbeing initiatives—is to support our veterinary professionals in doing what they do best: delivering high-quality, compassionate care to pets,” said Banfield Pet Hospital Senior Vice President of People and Organization Stephanie Neuvirth, MBA. “We hope to not only alleviate the financial burdens our associates face, but also inspire people to enter the field who might otherwise be discouraged due to the significant educational debt they’ll acquire.”

Given that veterinary medicine has the highest DIR among the various health professions, that’s a legitimate concern.

The goal in the profession is to lower the DIR to 1.41:1 by 2025.

With $4 million paid down and counting, Banfield’s Veterinary Student Debt Relief Pilot Program is a promising start.

Photo credit: © iStock/MCCAIG