Ross’ veterinary medical school earns U.S. accreditation

First Caribbean program to receive COE's approval

March 9, 2011 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Ross University’s veterinary school is the first of several Caribbean-based veterinary programs to receive U.S. accreditation.

The Council on Education (COE), the accrediting arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association, made the decision this week after conducting a comprehensive site visit of Ross in January. The 200 or so students who graduate annually from the school on St. Kitts now will sit for the same national and state board examinations posed to graduates of U.S.-based veterinary medical programs.

Previously, Ross students had to pass one of two foreign graduate equivalency examinations as a first step toward attaining licensure in the United States. Roughly 95 percent of all Ross veterinary students are American.

“Most of our students come from the United States and go back there to practice,” says Jodi Peeler, spokeswoman for the program. “Accreditation gives our students a sense of pride to know that they’re going through a great educational program.”

Ross, along with other Caribbean-based veterinary medical programs — American University of Antigua, St. George’s University on Grenada and St. Matthew’s University on Grand Cayman — are widely believed to catch the overflow of U.S. veterinary school applicants who fail to secure a seat in one of the country's 28 veterinary medical programs. Tuition for veterinary students at Ross is $45,000 annually.

(The veterinary programs at St. Matthew’s and St. George’s are not U.S. accredited, though officials at the latter school actively seek the distinction.)

Ross’ Dean David DeYoung, DVM, could not be reached immediately. In a university news release, he stated that achieving AVMA accreditation “further affirms our commitment to excellence in veterinary education.”

The COE’s decision could clear the way for other veterinary medical programs without the means to clinically train students on site to attain accreditation. Previously, not housing a veterinary teaching hospital with a large caseload was a deal breaker. That changed last May when Western University of Health Sciences, in Pomona, Calif., earned full accreditation following a lengthy battle with the COE. Western U clinically trains veterinary students in a non-traditional manner. Rather than sending third- and fourth-year students on clinical rotations through an on-site veterinary teaching hospital, the students rotate through private practices in the area.

By contrast, Ross’ veterinary school partners with 22 of the 28 U.S. veterinary programs to provide students with clinical training. Students at Ross attend classes on the island for 28 months before spending a little more than a year rotating through a veterinary teaching hospital in the United States.

Ross opened its veterinary school in 1982. DeVry, Inc., a publicly held, for-profit company that provides higher education, purchased the university in 2003. Officials with the veterinary program began seeking U.S. accreditation three years later.

Unlike some accrediting bodies, the COE is not authorized to enable colleges to participate in Title IV federal student loans, though its approval carries influence with the U.S. Department of Education. Ross students already have access to Title IV aid; the university was certified to receive it long before the federal government began limiting participation.

Editors note: This article was amended from its original, which incorrectly stated that St. George's students did not have access to Title IV federal funding. The university announced today that it received provisional certification for Title IV funds from the U.S. Department of Education. 

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