Veterinary program may get pricier for South Dakotans

Arrangement with Minnesota on tuition discount is uncertain

Published: May 28, 2024

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A deal under which residents of South Dakota pay discounted tuition for four years of veterinary school by beginning their studies in their home state and finishing at the University of Minnesota might be unavailable to those who enter the program in fall 2025 and beyond.

If that happens, completing their degree would become tens of thousands of dollars more expensive than for their counterparts in previous classes.

The program in question is a so-called 2+2 arrangement under which veterinary students attend their first two years at South Dakota State University, then move on to the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine for their final two years. Their DVM degree is conferred by UMN.

The program is young and small. It began in 2021 and enrolls 20 students per year. The inaugural class will graduate in spring 2025.

From its inception, UMN granted South Dakota residents in the program its in-state tuition rate, which is significantly less than tuition for out-of-staters. SDSU likewise grants its in-state rate to Minnesota residents in the program.

Having markedly different rates for residents versus nonresidents is standard in public higher education.

UMN veterinary college resident tuition and fees during the 2023-24 academic year were $34,582, while nonresident tuition and fees were $62,122, the university website shows.

SDSU veterinary program in-state tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year are $32,602, and out-of-state tuition and fees are $58,522, according to Dennis Hedge, SDSU provost and vice president of academic affairs.

The two schools' veterinary program tuition arrangement fell apart after the South Dakota Board of Regents, which governs the state's eight public higher-education institutions, late last year revamped other programs involving tuition charged to out-of-state students.

None of the changes made by the regents pertained to the joint South Dakota-Minnesota veterinary program tuition agreement, Hedge said — it was a separate arrangement. However, because the changes involved Minnesota in other respects, all tuition deals with the state were swept up in the mix.

Specifically, the regents expanded a program called South Dakota Advantage. Primarily for undergraduates, the program grants resident tuition rates to students from 11 states in the region, including Minnesota. The regents then chose not to renew a reciprocity agreement with Minnesota dating to 1978 under which students in each state could receive discounted tuition in the other state. (The discount was not as low as the resident rate, however.)

A key difference between the reciprocity agreement and South Dakota Advantage is that the reciprocity agreement was a two-way street. South Dakota Advantage is a one-way street — focused on drawing students in other states to South Dakota schools.

In brief

"What's good for the economics of the state is to be a net importer of student talent," Hedge explained, noting that schools nationwide are competing for a declining number of students.

The veterinary program wasn't meant to be affected by South Dakota's new strategy but potentially is anyway.

"South Dakota didn't touch the 2+2 vet rate — didn't touch it at all," Hedge said. But the other changes, he said, "did sort of create an environment for people to reflect upon all tuition-type agreements: 'If there's going to be a change, perhaps we'll look at all of them.' "

A UMN veterinary college spokesperson, Martin Moen, declined to elaborate on the school's thinking, saying by email only that the future tuition structure of the joint veterinary program is undetermined because "The reciprocity agreement between the states has dissolved."

Moen said South Dakota residents already in the program, including students enrolling for their first year at SDSU this fall, will still be granted the resident rate while at UMN. Beyond that, he said, "A final decision has not been made."

Meanwhile, the South Dakota residents who still qualify for the Minnesota resident rate will not receive it automatically. They must submit a request form to UMN. The university's Residency and Reciprocity Handbook provides some details and a link to the online form, as does a university webpage.

For its part, SDSU has no plans to discontinue granting its resident rate to Minnesotans in the veterinary program, Hedge said, although he added that only the state Board of Regents has the authority to set tuition and fees.

Figures Hedge supplied show the veterinary program in its first three years enrolled almost the same number of Minnesotans as South Dakotans — 21 and 20, respectively.

Another 19 students came from other states. Those students pay out-of-state rates to both SDSU and UMN, and that won't change.

The SDSU-UMN cooperative veterinary program was originally proposed by Dr. Trevor Ames, dean of the Minnesota veterinary school at the time, as a way to attract more students interested in rural practice. "I believe that without intentional programs that are aiming to meet this need, we will see an increasing shortage of these much-needed practitioners that basically secure our food supply," he told the VIN News Service in 2018.

Hedge underscored last week that SDSU "remains committed to the important effort of affordable, high-quality veterinary education with an emphasis on addressing the rural veterinarian workforce need of the state and region."

Whether the prospect of a significantly more expensive finish to their education will deter South Dakotans from applying to the program is an open question.

Judging from the difference between resident and nonresident tuition and fees charged by UMN last year, the added cost would amount to a total of about $55,000.

Hedge said he believes the extra expense would be a deterrent, but he hopes the two schools can negotiate a deal to avoid that scenario.

"My hope is that we land in a pretty comparable place to where we're at right now," he said, "but we need to work with our partners in Minnesota to come to some sort of an agreement."

The South Dakota-Minnesota program is one of five veterinary school collaborations in the United States. The others are at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with Iowa State University; the University of Utah with Washington State University; Montana State University also with Washington State University; and the University of Alaska Fairbanks with Colorado State University.

Utah State plans to end its partnership with Washington State and instead provide a full four years of veterinary education starting in fall 2025.

June 3, 2024, correction: The article mistakenly stated that the University of Iowa has a veterinary school partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The participating institution is Iowa State University.

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