I got a welcome surprise recently- the AAVMC Student Debt Initiative Report.
I posted a while back about the Gainful Employment rule, and the possibility of using the system it created to gather objective debt and compensation data directly from the US Department of Education and Social Security Administration, respectively. This requires the schools to request their data through that system, as GE is not currently in force. I knew AAVMC had an effort going on concerning student debt, and figured those'd be the people who would know if the schools were considering it. So I contacted someone who knew something about it, who passed my request along to the AVMA representative to the AAVMC Task Force on Student Debt.
Great, I figured, that'll end in a bunch of bureaucratic stonewalling.
Oh me of little faith. In less than 24 hours- and this on a weekend- said representative, Scott Spaulding, had responded with a copy of the report and encouragement to share it.
My next pleasant surprise came when I read the report. It isn't totally horrible. It does contain a plan to engage and support the financial aid officers at the colleges, as well as concrete plans to develop specific debt management tools for pre-vets, vet students and recent graduates. Financial aid officers (FAO) are da bomb when it comes to student borrowing. I've posted about them before, commenting on what an incredible resource the Grad/Prof FAO listserv is. AAVMC is planning to create and host a vet school specific listserv and handbook for FAOs at veterinary schools.
They are also planning on developing for prevets a map showing the location and tuition of all the AAVMC member schools, similar to the VIN Foundation map that uses my numbers. For vet students they will develop a financial literacy program that covers not only basics like the time value of money and tax implications of student loans, but veterinary specific considerations like why and how to become an owner. The program would be made up of modules that could be flexibly integrated into any curriculum, or offered outside the core curriculum, so any school could utilize it as it suited their particular situation.
They also plan on adapting for use by all vet students, a loan tracker app developed by the FAO at one of the vet schools. It would allow each student to enter every loan they have, not just student loans, and keep track of balances, payments, due dates, interest rates and so forth. This is a GREAT idea.
The loan tracker would be available through AVMA after graduation, and that's my one concern. If one finds oneself unable to get a job, or not working for some extended time for any other reason- then one is likely to let one's almost $400 AVMA membership lapse. Thus during the time period when you most at risk of not being able to keep up with your loans... you lose access to the tool that helps you keep up with your loans!
Alas, it contains no mention of any objective measurement of debt. At all. Ever. From the report,
Although there were no specific outcome assessments done, schools that had significant personal finance offerings... believed the students made better financial decisions while in school, had less anxiety and were better able to focus on academics.
Less anxiety? Ok, that's good, less anxiety is good but...did they have LESS DEBT?!?!
Yes, that is the sound of my molars grinding together.