Arkansas Higher Education Board approves A-State’s preliminary plan for veterinarian school

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,021 views 

The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board has approved Arkansas State University’s outline for its College of Veterinary Medicine, including the potential for 40 new faculty and staff positions dedicated to the program.

The state board also approved the program of study along with the individual program requirements and courses. The next step for A-State is to forward ADHE’s approval on to the national accrediting agencies associated with veterinary colleges.

“Today is another milestone for residents of the state of Arkansas and for our significant agricultural industry,” Chancellor Todd Shields said. “We appreciate the approval of the coordinating board and we are looking ahead to becoming the university of choice for those residents who want to become veterinarians. Right now, everyone who dreams of becoming a vet has to leave the state. That’s a hardship to them and to their families.”

At the hearing, university administrators presented their proposed budgetary plan which will seek to spread the start-up expenses over multiple years, and would be met with a combination of philanthropy and internal funds. The ongoing costs will be supported by the tuition paid by students to the program, projected to be 120 in each cohort.

“Over and over, we hear about the need for more veterinarians to fill the growing need for companion pet care and the agricultural industry across our state,” Shields said. “We have been fortunate to have great input from our campus and guidance from our inaugural dean as well as other consultants to formulate a plan that is responsive to the needs of the veterinary community and economical for our future students. Above all, we want to make it possible for Arkansans in particular to stay home for their DVM and establish their practices right here in our state.”

Nationwide, there is a growing shortage of doctorates of veterinary medicine (DVMs) to fill a growing demand for services. In the state of Arkansas alone, the number of households with pets has reached almost one million. Meanwhile, a generation of companion animal care veterinarians who have served those families are reaching, and many beyond, retirement age. The more than 12,500 farms across the state have a growing need for vet services, as well as Arkansas’ expanding food production industry.

“This is a landmark day for A-State, and for how we can be of service to the state,” Provost Calvin White Jr. said. “We’ve had a tremendous team effort to reach this point. I know that creating our own College of Veterinary Medicine not only gives students a chance to stay home and choose A-State, it also creates great interdisciplinary opportunities among our current and future faculty to collaborate on research. A-State will be the only public university where graduate faculty, major biological research facilities, a medical school and a veterinary college can all collaborate on the same campus.”

Annual tuition for Arkansas residents was proposed at $17,000 per semester, with out-of-state student cost at $27,000 per semester. The average annual cost of tuition for in-state DVM students according to the American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges was $34,289 per academic year for residents and $55,158 for non-residents in 2022-23.

“We believe we have a great plan and are assembling a great team for our proposed college,” Shields said. “Obviously, specific financial points may vary based on how the economy is going and what it costs to purchase equipment or refit facilities.”

The university outlined its plans to utilize existing space on campus for classroom instruction and renovation of existing facilities on the A-State Research and Instructional Farm while it makes final evaluations for the need and design of a potential College of Veterinary Medicine building. While officials discussed the potential to issue a bond for construction, by the time plans are finalized in the near future, the need may be reduced.

“If we were breaking ground today, we might bond,” Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Len Frey said. “However, by the time architectural renderings are complete and we move forward, there may be additional sources of funding utilized that may reduce that need.”

Following the approval by AHECB, Arkansas State will proceed with submission of the approval and its plans to the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Council on Education.