BROOKINGS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota State University is creating a new veterinary program with the University of Minnesota to address a shortage of rural care in the region.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem approved the partnership Friday, allowing the schools to begin the process of accreditation and building a curriculum, said John Killefer, SDSU’s dean of agriculture.
Killefer told the Argus Leader that SDSU plans to end its current veterinary program with Iowa State University in August 2021.
Under the new program, 20 students will complete their first two years of courses at SDSU and the remaining two years at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul, he said.
The partnership aims to fill a care shortage in rural areas, according to Killefer. Less than 2 percent of practicing veterinarians go into rural care, and schools don’t have enough students graduating with the desire to enter rural practices, he said.
Many students leave veterinarian programs with large debts and often pursue small animal care because it can be more lucrative than working in South Dakota’s growing livestock industry, according to Killefer.
“Our program is designed to reduce that debt load by $100,000 per student by the time they get done,” Killefer said. “And part of that is because students from South Dakota do not have a vet school in state.”
SDSU’s existing program can only send six of its most qualified students to Iowa State University’s veterinarian school, where they pay Iowa’s in-state tuition rate. The new partnership will be able to send a greater number of students to Minnesota, which has a more affordable in-state tuition rate, Killefer said.
Trevor Ames, dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said Minnesota’s “western neighbors feel the shortage of veterinary care even more acutely.”
“This is a good partnership for our schools,” Ames said.