A program to help lower student loan debt for veterinarians who practice in rural parts of Colorado has been expanded and is now accepting new applicants.
The Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program (VELRP), first created in 2017, will now pay up to $90,000 over four years to help licensed veterinarians in Colorado pay off their student debt as they work in underserved areas of the state, as defined in the United States Department of Agriculture's Veterinary Services Shortage Situations Map.
This spring, the Colorado legislature revised Senate Bill 23-044 with the following updates to the program:
- Increased the number of qualified applicants per year from four to six veterinarians
- Eliminates the requirement that an applicant must have graduated from an accredited veterinary school in 2017 or later
- Increases the total amount an applicant is eligible for over a four-year period from $70,000 to $90,000
- Increases the yearly repayment amounts for successful applicants (up to $15K after first six months; up to additional $20,000 after two years; up to additional $25,000 after third year; up to additional $30,000 after fourth year)
- Requires the state treasurer to transfer $540,000 from the general fund to the veterinary education loan repayment fund on Sept. 1, 2023
Sponsors of the bill were Sen. Joann Ginal, Sen. Rod Pelton, Rep. Karen McCormick and Rep. Ty Winter. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill on June 2.
In Colorado, there are shortages in rural area food animal medicine in Montezuma, La Plata, Sedgwick, Phillips, Logan, Yuma, Kit Carson, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Costilla, Huerfano, Las Animas, Montrose, Delta, Rio Grande, Mineral, Saguache, Conejos, Alamosa, Baca, Bent, Kiowa and Prowers counties.
Dr. Callie Kuntz, owner of Prairie Winds Veterinary Clinic, LLC in Yuma, said she used this funding to purchase and grow her practice. She also purchased the land and building within five years of living in the Yuma County community. All the while, she was able to decrease her loan debt.
"As a young veterinarian, business owner and mother, it's been a huge blessing to be able to have received these repayments and pursue what I love, where I love: rural Colorado," she said.
The VELRP program is overseen by a council, which selects the participants and is appointed by the governor. The current members are:
- Chair: Scott Johnson, Flying Diamond Ranch
- Vice-chair: Dr. Kayla Henderson, Colorado Veterinary Medical Association
- Dr. Melinda Frye, associate dean of the DVM Program at the CSU College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences
- Dr. Morgan McCarty, representative of the State Commissioner of Agriculture
- Dr. John Raftopoulos, Colorado Livestock Industry
The council will consider multiple factors when deciding which candidates to approve. This includes an applicant's training, ability to provide and willingness to engage in food animal veterinary medicine, as well as their commitment to practice in veterinary shortage areas and their dates of availability.
To submit an application, click here. The application process will close Dec. 31.
Applicants who graduated from the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be given preference, as will applicants who lived in the veterinary shortage area (or nearby) or have family in the area. Email CSU Executive Director of Operations College Office Jon Stocking at Jon.Stocking@colostate.edu with questions.