With the Arizona Legislature back in session, some in the UA community are hoping a proposed veterinary medical program will become a reality.
Though the UA currently allows students to spend four years taking prerequisites required for a veterinary degree, students must transfer to another school to finish their degree. The proposed program would allow students to finish their degree at the UA.
This will be the second legislative session the proposed program enters since it failed to be included in Gov. Jan Brewer’s 2013-14 budget request, according to Shane Burgess, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.
“We’ve worked around that hurdle, and now we’re back in the Legislature again,” Burgess said. “We absolutely believe that this plan is a very good thing for Arizona as a whole. We absolutely believe it’s an exceptionally good thing for Arizonans who want to become veterinarians … but we also understand that the Legislature has a bigger job to do.”
Last fall, the Arizona Board of Regents approved a $4.2 million recommendation to develop the four-year program. Burgess said there a curriculum and plan have been worked out for the program, and it is just awaiting funding from the governor and Legislature.
State Rep. Ethan Orr is working to push the program through the Legislature. Orr said for the past several months, he has been working with rural members to educate them on the importance of the UA in their communities.
“This is an affordable program that more students can go for, but it’s also important for our state economy,” Orr said. “This kind of furthers, in my mind, the idea that the University of Arizona is a resource to the entire state.”
There is no publicly funded program like this in the state, and Burgess said the program would not only help boost the number of veterinarians in Arizona, but also cut down on the amount of years required to become a veterinarian, as well as decrease the average debt load for veterinary students.
Burgess said the cost of the program would be close to a third of what it typically costs for other veterinary programs and added that the program is designed to shorten the time between high school and graduation, giving students the chance to earn money four to six years earlier than they would have otherwise.
Andrew Comrie, UA Provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said the university is looking for multiple sources of support for the program. He added that staff is actively trying to work with legislators to see if and when there might be support for the program.
“We know it’s something that many people out in the state have asked for, including some of the Legislature,” Comrie said. “We’re really trying to shape this for Arizona.”
Ultimately, Burgess said he believes the program is beneficial for students and Arizona as a whole.
“It can sometimes be a little difficult to get done, but we are optimistic that we have a really strong plan that will benefit the state and benefit the students in the state,” Burgess said, “so we’re going to stick with it as much as we can and try to do the best that we can for the state.”