Veterinary medicine students plan for tuition freeze

Student government leaders are amping up efforts to get similar cost reductions.

by Blair Emerson

University of Minnesota veterinary medicine student Ashley Hall is planning how she’ll pay off her $300,000 student debt once she completes her program.

To keep down costs that can be burdensome for students like Hall, the University’s College of Veterinary Medicine will see a tuition freeze this academic year and an 8 percent tuition reduction for senior-year students.

Last year, the college’s tuition was $14,247 per term for nine or more credits. Nonresidents paid nearly double that price at $26,480 per term. Those rates will stay frozen through 2014-15.

Even with the freeze, Hall, who’s an out-of-state student, said the gap between what nonresident and resident students pay is still too wide.

Hall said she takes out the maximum amount of loans and lives paycheck-to-paycheck, and she’s still uncertain what her job prospects will be like once she finishes school.

“I’m hoping I somehow figure something out,” she said.

This school year, Hall made an effort to meet with state legislators and research the tuition costs of various University professional programs to try increasing awareness about the cost of attending the schools.

“Even though I realized fixing tuition might not be feasible, I wanted to spend the year trying to attract attention to the issue,” she said, “because it’s something that people are aware of, but I feel like it’s kind of ignored.”

As part of her research, Hall said she noticed the University’s Medical School has a fixed tuition policy for its students in which rates are static for all four years of medical school. In addition, the policy makes a guarantee to first-year students that their tuition won’t rise until they complete their program.

Hall said she wanted veterinary medicine students to have the same guaranteed tuition rate for every year they’re in school. She’ll work to continue next year’s freeze into the 2015-16 academic year, too.

Second-year veterinary medicine student Brian Stampfl said the cost of attending the college is stressful. He said he’ll have least $200,000 in debt after completing his degree program.

“Sometimes you just wonder why [tuition] has to be so high,” he said.

Stampfl, who’s also a nonresident student, said he appreciates that the University is working to lower costs for students. He said the tuition freeze signals that administrators are aware of cost issues.

College of Veterinary Medicine Dean Trevor Ames said he was happy that the University was able to respond to students’ pleas to freeze tuition.

“Obviously, we’re concerned about our students’ tuition and our students’ debt,” he said. “We’re thrilled to be doing something to address this problem.”

Raising awareness

Other graduate and professional students are taking action to combat increasing tuition rates.

Council of Graduate Students President Andrew McNally said he and other graduate students are creating a new student group this year to raise awareness about the high costs of attending the University.

He said the group will likely meet with legislators to discuss their issues and inform them about the work graduate students do at the University.

“Once there’s greater understanding of what a graduate student is, graduate students’ concerns ideally become part of the conversation in the Legislature,” he said.

Hall, who is also GAPSA’s executive vice president for next year, said she’d like to keep raising awareness about issues surrounding tuition costs, and she wants to help extend the freeze to other professional schools.

Next year Hall plans to get more graduate and professional students involved with lobbying at the state Capitol, she said.

“I think that’s what makes people listen, you just have to keep bothering them about it,” she said. “The state needs to hear from all of us, not just one person … They need to hear everyone’s stories.”