Veterinary school is expensive. A veterinary degree can cost as much as a medical school degree and more than the average U.S. home mortgage. However veterinary new graduate starting salaries are about ½ to 1/3 of a new physician’s income.
You might be focused right now on just getting in to veterinary school, but choosing a school without thinking about the price can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars.
To save yourself heartache and years of financial stress, commit to applying smarter. To date, no study shows that your income as a veterinarian increases because of the school you attend or the amount you pay for your education. Thus, there is no “Harvard effect” for veterinarians.
What does it mean to Apply Smarter? Narrow your target list of schools. Only apply to veterinary schools where you can attend at the lowest cost possible. Your future Dr. Financially-Responsible-Smart-Applicant-Self will thank you!
Make cost an important part of your application process by choosing to apply to only the schools where you will be eligible for one of the least expensive seats.
According to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) 2018-19 Annual Report, the least expensive first-year discounted tuition seat (in-state resident seat) for veterinary students starting in Fall 2018 (graduating 2022) was about $19,500 (North Carolina State University).
The priciest first-year non-discounted tuition (out-of-state, non-resident seat) was about $70,200 (Ohio State University). You can expect to receive a good veterinary education at any of the AVMA COE accredited veterinary schools.
You do not have to pay $50,000+ more per year to receive the same education, degree, and career opportunities as your in-state resident colleagues.
Borrowing for veterinary school is different than borrowing for undergraduate education.
Veterinary school is considered graduate/professional school. There are virtually no student loan limits. You’re allowed to borrow much more, but interest rates and fees are much higher than loans for undergraduates. Interest alone can add $20,000-$40,000 or more to your veterinary school costs. The less you borrow, the lower your interest.
New veterinarians with less debt to manage have a head start. A lighter loan burden means more financial flexibility and possibilities after graduation. With less debt, you can more easily pursue an internship or residency, or take a new job in your dream location without worrying as much about being able to pay your loans. Yes, your vet school experience is important, but the rest-of-your-life experience is even more so!
What can we learn from the most recent survey of veterinary school applicants?
Data presented by Dr. Lisa Greenhill of AAVMC during the 2018 AVMA Economic Conference showed most veterinary students apply to five colleges of veterinary medicine. But most students don’t worry about cost until they have an offer of admission.
When faced with the choice, your desire to be a veterinary student will likely prevail over your concern for cost consequences when you have a letter of acceptance in hand. Make cost an important part of your application process by choosing to apply to only the schools where you will be eligible for one of the least expensive seats.
The veterinary class of 2022 told AAVMC that they were willing to pay about $1,200/mo to service their veterinary school debt.
First, you don’t get to choose how much you can pay towards your student loans after you graduate. The monthly payment in most cases will be based on the amount you borrowed, the interest rate(s), and the time to pay the balance to zero. For example, a $260,000 home mortgage at 4% with a 30 year repayment period would require a monthly payment of $1,241 to pay the balance to zero.
In order to eliminate your student loan balance in 10 years (the default repayment timeframe for federal student loans) at an average interest rate of 6% paying $1,200/mo, you would need to borrow less than $108,000.
Wherever you live or whichever school you attend, it will be nearly impossible to obtain a veterinary education for $108,000.
Use the VIN Foundation Cost of Education Map to see what schools allow you to come closest to $108,000 total for your veterinary education.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to Apply Smarter.
Come as close as you can to a student loan balance that can be repaid in 10 years using no more than 10-15% of your veterinary income by choosing the least costly in-state school and minimizing your living expenses. That will reduce the amount you’ll need to borrow and the interest that will accrue while you complete your veterinary education.
To apply more financial perspective, in order to limit your $1,200/mo student loan payment to 10% of your income, you would need to earn $144,000/year after you graduate. The 2018 graduating class (excluding those pursuing internships and residencies) reported an average income of about $82,000 per year. Paying $1,200/mo with an average veterinary starting salary would require 17% of your gross monthly income (and that’s before all those taxes come out of your paycheck).
The average student debt balance reported by 2018 veterinary graduates with student loans was about $183,000 In order to pay back that amount over 10 years at a 6% interest rate, your monthly payment would be $2,030/mo.
That’s 69% more than what most applicants say they are willing to pay and 30% of the average gross monthly income for 2018 veterinary graduates. Remember, you need to keep in mind that you will have to pay taxes and other living expense beyond your student loan payment after you graduate.
Nationally, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics shows that single person households for those ranging in age from 25-34, spend roughly 70% of their household expenses on Housing, Food, Transportation, and Healthcare. That does not leave a lot of room for loan repayment, let alone important things like emergency savings and retirement planning. Not to mention clothing, entertainment, and other general living expenses. This is why most veterinary school graduates need to utilize Income-Driven Repayment to repay their veterinary school loans while balancing their budgets.
Do your future budget a favor; prioritize schools where you can apply for discounted tuition, such as the school(s) that have contracts for you to attend at the state resident rate. Fortunately, the application statistics show that your best chance of getting into a veterinary school is at your state of residence school.
TARGET SCHOOLS WHERE YOU CAN ATTEND AT THE LOWEST COST POSSIBLE. YOUR FUTURE DR. SMART-APPLICANT SELF WILL THANK YOU!
Some schools allow you to switch state residency status after your first year so you can obtain discounted tuition starting in year two of veterinary school: North Carolina State, Ohio State, Missouri, UC-Davis, and Washington State universities. This can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition, living expenses, and interest.
Avoid applying to schools where you would pay full non-discounted tuition, particularly if you are planning to pay for your veterinary education with student loans. The more you borrow, the more interest you will accrue, and the more you’ll end up paying back.
Consider moving to a state ahead of time to establish residency and apply for a discounted seat. Even if this prolongs your application by a year, the cost savings and financial flexibility can be well worth it.
Cost matters. Prioritize schools with the lowest total cost of attendance, make sure you’re borrowing as little as possible to cover your veterinary education and focus on skills to help you increase your earning potential as a veterinarian.