Mo. House expands loan program for vet students

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missourians studying to become veterinarians for large animals would be eligible for an $80,000 forgivable loan under legislation endorsed Tuesday by the House.

The bill would expand an existing loan program for veterinary students. It would be limited to six students at the University of Missouri-Columbia and would cover only those planning to specialize in caring for large animals.

The bill also transfers from the Missouri Veterinarian Board to the Department of Agriculture the responsibility for administering the program.

Rep. John Quinn, R-Chillicothe, said better incentives for veterinary students are needed because there are too few to care for large animals in Missouri.

Democratic critics said that the bill would open the door to using state money to help people from outside Missouri get a cheaper education. The bill would require a student be a Missouri resident for at least one year to be eligible.

Rep. Trent Skaggs said that with so few scholarships available, lawmakers should make it harder for people not from Missouri to take advantage of the program.

Quinn, R-Chillicothe, said those fears are unfounded. Deciding who gets the scholarships would be up to a five-member panel that includes three veterinarians, the dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine on the Columbia campus and a member of the public connected to agriculture.

The loans through the program can be forgiven if the student agrees to practice in parts of the state where the Agriculture Department has decided there are not enough veterinarians. For students who do not complete school or practice elsewhere, the loans would carry a 9.5 percent interest rate.

A combination of state appropriations and private donations would be used to fund the program.

Student loans is HB693.

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