Let's solve the profession's problems one crazy idea at a time
No. 1 Close some veterinary schools
First up: Decreasing the number of veterinary schools would increase the quality of veterinary students while creating a workforce population that better matches demand.
"Closing veterinary colleges could decrease the number of graduates and make veterinary college acceptance more competitive," says John Volk, senior consultant with Brakke Consulting. "This could reduce the number of veterinarians and theoretically improve quality." He notes that this assumes that the remaining schools (in this parallel universe where veterinary schools could actually be closed, or close themselves down voluntarily) do not increase class size."I think the issue is—and this is tough—is fewer veterinarians, not necessarily fewer schools," says Karen Felsted, DVM, CPA, CVPM, MS, president of Felsted Veterinary Consulting.
Volk agrees the more realistic scenario to closing schools is reducing class size. But he says the only way this will happen is if there's an insufficient number of qualified applicants or financial pressures make it untenable to maintain the college. "Due to the increasing class sizes at many colleges of veterinary medicine, and a stagnant applicant pool, the number of applicants per available seats is declining," Volk says, though he also says it's unclear if it has declined to the point that applicants are unqualified. "The law schools are experiencing it now; dental colleges did several decades ago," he says.
However, Eleanor Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, dean of the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine, said at the Banfield Pet Healthcare Industry Summit in Portland, Ore., last year that veterinary colleges are fed with demand. "How do we look at the masses who want our education and say no?" she asked. Furthermore, she mantains that the quality of applicant is not waning and the applicant pool actually increased nationwide in 2013.
The size of almost every U.S. veterinary school class will increase in coming years, as will tuition, if trends continue. "Many veterinary colleges are struggling financially. Most are in state universities, and public funding in most states has been on the decline for many years," Volk says. "The catch-22 is that it is politically unacceptable to 'give up' the state veterinary school. So the likelihood of closures is minimal."
So, while saying, "Hey, Colorado State, Iowa State, Ohio State—oh, and you too, UC-Davis—cut your numbers or close your doors," seems like a decisive, short-term fix if you believe there is an oversupply of veterinarians, there seems to be no end in sight to the increasing influx of veterinary graduates. The number of graduates for 2017 is poised to jump 18 percent from 2013, so we hope you aren't too attached to this idea. This crazy solution may be just that.