A light at the end of the tunnel

A light at the end of the tunnel

Sep 01, 2011

LANSING, MICH. — While funding for higher education keeps creeping down on the priority list for cash-strapped states, at least one veterinary school hopes it is seeing the light at the end of the tunnel.

At Michigan State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, this year's cut in state funding was a fraction of what has been doled out in recent years. Dr. Jim Lloyd, associate dean for budget, planning and institutional research says the veterinary college's budget has been set since June.

Earlier this year, Lloyd reported that the veterinary school had lost 18 percent of its state funding over the previous three years, and was anticipating another 5 percent decrease over the next two years. This year's cut only amounted to about 2 percent, he says.

"This fiscal year is hopefully the tail end of a number of severely more restricted years, so maybe we're seeing a light at the end of the tunnel."

In response to MSU's state funding cuts, university administration increased tuition by 6.9 percent this year across the board, Lloyd says. More worrisome for veterinary students, he says, is the loss of a federal interest subsidy on graduate student loans as a result of the debt bill. The program previously kept student loans interest-free while veterinary students completed their education. Now, interest will accrue for the entire life of the loans, he says.

"That's going to probably increase the debt load interest a bit, but it is what it is," Lloyd says.

However, things are looking up overall for the veterinary program at MSU. Lloyd says the college is posting positions and hiring again.

"We're feeling like the worst is behind us," Lloyd says. "It has been tough, it has been difficult, but we've got a job to do and we're going to get on with it."

Other states are still finalizing budgets, so there isn't a clear picture for many of the other veterinary colleges that depend on state funding stand. Marguerite Pappaioanou, executive director of the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges, says she hasn't really heard much new information yet, but believes many veterinary colleges are still facing trying times. The outlook is not good, she says, with more federal budget cuts trickling down to the states.

"States will be hit even harder, so we'll see how it plays out for the universities," she says.