Lawmakers introduce student loan forgiveness bill to combat veterinarian shortage

To combat the veterinarian shortage, lawmakers are introducing a bill for student loan forgiveness up to $100,000.
Published: Apr. 4, 2022 at 9:04 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - For months, Arizona’s Family has reported on the valley-wide shortage of veterinarians, and it’s still giving pet owners problems. To mitigate that issue, a state lawmaker is introducing a new bill to forgive up to $100,000 in student loans. It’s giving students hope who want to be animal doctors.

At Western Maricopa Education Center or West-MEC, high schoolers like Jazlyn Espinoza and Mac Bell are here to learn the ins and outs of taking care of animals. They’ll receive certification and credits for higher learning. Their goal though is to be a veterinarian, despite how costly that’ll be.

“It’s something a lot of people don’t think about, it’s something like education shouldn’t cost that much, but it costs a lot,” said student Jazlyn Espinoza. It’s something senator TJ Shope is thinking about, who sponsored SB 1271, which would establish an Arizona Veterinary Loan Assistance Program.

Offering significant incentives - including a student loan reimbursement of up to 100,000 for veterinarians who work in Arizona for at least four years. A part of the agreement requires the vets to work at least two years at a county, nonprofit shelter, or in the agricultural industry.

“These kids are sunk in at 500-600 thousand dollars, half a million dollars, and a veterinarian starting pay is 60,000 dollars,” said Brandeice Garza, a teacher for aspiring veterinarians at West-MEC. “Having a state kickback, I think, is huge for these kids and of course, we encourage them for scholarships and financial aid.”

It would be a big, much-needed boost for students like Bell and Espinoza, who believe this legislation could bring in even more aspiring vets. “It’s such a good opportunity to connect with a different species,” said Bell. The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, a 27-2 vote. It sits in the house and awaits budget negotiations.