Utah Regents approve new veterinary school

Final decision rests with Legislature

December 9, 2010 (published)
By Stephen W. Spero

Utah should have a new veterinary school, the state’s Board of Regents decided today.

The Regents, which set educational policy for the state, voted unanimously that Utah State University (USU) be allowed to enter into an agreement with Washington State University (WSU) to jointly offer a four-year program that will lead to DVM degrees.

The state Legislature would have to commit millions of dollars before the program could get off the ground, and it is not certain the Legislature will spend the money.

“I’d say the chances are at least even,” Senate President Michael G. Waldroups told the VIN News Service.

One of the school’s big backers in the Legislature is Sen. Kevin T. Van Tassell, R-Vernal. He believes the state will adopt the proposal, but perhaps not until 2012. “There is some support for it. We think we have a chance, at the latest in two years,” he said.

The state needs veterinarians, particularly in the rural areas, said Van Tassell, who represents northeast Utah. “I look at my vets that are servicing my area and in 10 years they are all going to retire,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has identified six regions in Utah as having veterinary "shortage situations."

The Utah Legislature will begin its new session on Jan. 24. If it supports the school in the 2011 session, Utah State will admit its first class in fall 2012, said Dr. Kenneth White, head of the school’s animal, dairy and veterinary services.

“I’m very excited. I’m excited for our department, and I’m excited for our students. I am grateful for (the Regents’) support,” he said.

If legislative approval were to come in 2012, Utah State would push back the first class to fall 2013, he said.

Beyond $450,000 in start-up costs, USU will need $1.7 million annually to educate 20 Utah residents and 10 out-of-state students, according to the proposal.

Under the plan, Utah students would complete their third and fourth years of studies, including hands-on clinical training, at WSU, which has a well-established veterinary teaching hospital. At that point, the Legislature will need to budget an additional $1.3 million a year to cover the students' out-of-state tuition premium charged by Washington. (Utah would not pay the premium for non-resident students.)

Tuition is proposed to be $18,100 a year for Utah residents and $45,000 a year for non-residents. It is expected to rise 7 percent annually.

The Regents' approval means the proposal is official policy, and if Utah State does not receive the money from the Legislature in the next budget, proponents can keep trying, said Holly Braithwaite, a spokeswoman for the state education commissioner.

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