USDA announces $4.2 million to repay vet education loans

WASHINGTON, DC, April 6, 2017 – The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) today announced $4.2 million in available funding for help eligible veterinarians repay a portion of their veterinary school loans in exchange for their service in areas of the United States lacking sufficient veterinary resources. Funding is provided through NIFA’s Veterinary Drug Loan Reimbursement Program (VMLRP), authorized by the 2014 Farm Bill.

“Many vets face insurmountable student loan debt and choose to work in urban areas that offer higher pay. This is causing a critical shortage of veterinarians in rural America,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “This assistance will help veterinarians return to rural America where they can provide needed services to our farmers and ranchers, and continue to protect our food supply from farm animal disease.”

Studies indicate significant and growing shortages of veterinarians in the food supply. One of the main causes of the shortage is the high cost of four years of vocational training in veterinary medicine, which can average over $150,000. Without the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program to help ease this financial burden, many veterinarians might otherwise choose more lucrative career options in urban areas, such as pet care.

Recipients are required to commit to three years of veterinary service in a designated veterinary shortage area. A map of veterinary service shortage areas by state is available online. Loan repayment benefits are limited to principal and interest payments on government and commercial loans received for attendance at an American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) accredited veterinary college leading to a doctor’s degree. in veterinary medicine or equivalent.

Eligible candidates:

  • Have a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree by July 1, 2017, or equivalent, from a veterinary college accredited by the AVMA Council on Education;
  • Have a minimum eligible student loan debt of $15,000;
  • Obtain an offer of employment or establish and/or maintain a practice in a NIFA-designated veterinarian shortage situation within the time period specified in the VMLRP service agreement offer;
  • Provide certifications and verifications as defined in 7 CFR 3431, Veterinary Drug Loan Reimbursement Program;
  • Have no veterinary service obligation to the federal, state, or other entity under any agreement with such federal, state, or other entity, unless such obligation is fully satisfied prior to commencement service under the VMLRP; and
  • Not have a federal judgment lien on his property arising from a federal debt.

The deadline for applications is May 26, 2017.

See the request for nominations for more details.

Since the program’s inception in 2010, more than 300 veterinarians have helped fill shortage situations in 46 states. In a blog post, Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Pays Dividends, two recent participants, Annie Bowes, an Idaho-based veterinarian, and Tim VanDerPloeg, a Kentucky-based veterinarian, spoke about the program’s impact on them and their communities.

NIFA invests in and advances agricultural research, education and extension and promotes transformative discoveries that solve societal challenges. NIFA’s support of the best and brightest scientists and extension personnel has resulted in groundbreaking user-inspired discoveries that combat childhood obesity, improve and sustain rural economic growth, solve water availability water, increase food production, find new sources of energy, mitigate climate variability, and ensure food security.

To learn more about NIFA’s impact on agricultural science, visit, sign up for email updates or follow us on Twitter @USDA_NIFA, #NIFAimpacts.


The USDA is an equal opportunity lender, provider and employer.