Fee deregulation will be devastating for graduates

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moneyThe peak group for veterinarians has warned that fee deregulation could have a devastating impact on the profession because high student debt levels and low average incomes would have negative long-term consequences on graduates.

According to a report by The Australian, The Australian Veterinary Association says its modelling has revealed student debts would be well over $200,000 for a five to seven-year degree. With average salaries of $77,000, vets could take up to 30 years to repay their HECS debt, the AVA said.

“We are seriously concerned about the impact on the future viability of the profession with potentially large number of graduates with extremely high levels of debt and limited ability to repay it,” said AVA president Julia Nicholls.

“Market forces (won’t) operate appropriately in the case of vet courses, and the consequences of these changes are unknown. Without sound workforce planning, it’s all guesswork. And it’s far too big a risk to take with a profession with such an important role.”

In its submission to the higher education reform bill, the AVA said starting and average salaries were much lower for vets than for professions such as medicine and dentistry which took the same amount of time to complete.

It noted while graduate salaries for vets was $47,330 in 2012, with an average of $77,000, average salaries for doctors was $149,000 and dentists $147,000.

It noted that 70-80 per cent of vets are women and therefore subject to career breaks for child rearing.

In its submission, the AVA, which has long complained of a growing oversupply of vets as new medical schools won government approval in recent years, called for a moratorium to be placed on places “until veterinary workforce planning can be completed”.

“There is a limit on commonwealth supported placed in medicine and the public-interest case is equally strong for a similar limit on veterinary science places,” the submission said.

“This will have the added benefit of budget certainty in relation to one of the most expensive tertiary courses (to deliver).”

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