PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine faces a $2.4 million budgetary shortfall following announcement that Oregon State University will begin withdrawal from a 23-year agreement to send veterinary students to WSU.

OSU Provost Tim White has informed WSU Provost Robert Bates that OSU’s new four-year veterinary program will begin in September 2003 with OSU students spending all four years of their professional education in Corvallis.

As a partner in the Washington-Oregon-Idaho Regional Program in Veterinary Medical Education, OSU has sent a new cohort of 36 veterinary students to Pullman each fall and paid WSU for their educational costs. OSU students spent their full second year of training and three-quarters of their third year at WSU. The change represents a loss of 64 full-time equivalent students, and WSU’s veterinary college will lose about 20 percent of its instructional budget.

“This is an emergency situation requiring Washington State University, this college, veterinarians, animal owners and the Washington Legislature to work together quickly to forestall any negative impacts,” said Warwick Bayly, dean of the WSU veterinary college.

“The timing of OSU’s pullout and when they sent their students to us is what makes this such an emergent issue,” he explained. “They came in their second year of professional training. We can’t replace that student deficit in 2004 unless we admit more freshmen veterinary students in 2003. And to do that, we need the additional funding from this next Washington Legislature. Like all other veterinary colleges, we are already in the annual process of accepting and reviewing applications for admission next fall.”

The WSU veterinary college plans to increase total enrollment by an additional 64 students over four years to replace the OSU students. The expansion, if fully funded, will begin by increasing the freshman class size by 16 in 2003. Tuition and operating fees from these students will partially offset the budget shortfall.

Currently, the college turns down some 10 to 12 students for every one admitted. Demand for WSU veterinary graduates is near an all-time high with most new veterinarians leaving the college with multiple job offers.

WSU and its veterinary college are requesting a permanent general fund increase of $800,000 in the first year of the biennium (2003-2004), and $1.8 million in the second year of the biennium (2004-2005) for a total of $2.6 million over two years. The importance of the veterinary budget crisis is evident in the university’s overall budget request. The veterinary emergency funding is the only specific program request the university will take forward to the upcoming legislative session.

“Veterinary medicine has been at the heart of WSU’s identity and excellence for 103 years,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. “WSU having one of only 27 veterinary colleges in the nation epitomizes our reputation for world class teaching and research, service to humanity, and leadership in returned value to the state’s investment.”

The Washington State Veterinary Medical Association is backing the college’s plan to ensure a continued supply of veterinarians in the face of current shortages.

WSU veterinary administrators have identified drastic cuts and impacts that will come, in whole or part, if the funding is not provided. These include the following:

–The college will eliminate up to 40 core DVM instructional staff positions including 26 technical support staff, nine graduate teaching positions, and five faculty positions.
–The college will be unable to sustain caseloads required for instruction, the evaluation of new diagnostic and treatment methods, and revenue vital to operating the teaching hospital and maintaining cutting edge diagnostic instrumentation.
–There will be the probable loss of accreditation by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians, and the American Association for Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care.
–There will be a drastic reduction, at a very critical time, in animal disease diagnostic services and bio-surveillance by the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and Avian Health and Food Safety Laboratory.
–Major cutbacks may occur in the recently funded Safe Food Initiative.
–There will be a significant reduction of the aquatic health certification program – a service that certifies disease-free status of many Washington aquaculture export products, and returns approximately $100 for every state dollar invested.
–The college will be forced to reduce state-wide field services provided by the Field Disease Investigation Unit to Washington’s more than $1.5 billion livestock industry.
–There will be dramatic cuts to the college’s research programs, noted worldwide for their productivity and technology transfer, which bring in approximately $10 toward direct research costs for each state dollar invested.

“This is perhaps the greatest challenge veterinary medicine and the animal-owning public in Washington have ever faced,” emphasized Dr. Bayly. “At the same time, we fully realize that the state’s revenues are extremely limited under the nation’s current economic situation. But this is an emergency we did not create that simply must be addressed cooperatively and I am personally calling on all veterinarians, animal owners, and concerned citizens to emphasize this to their legislators so they understand the situation and can respond appropriately.”

Dr. Bayly said the college has prepared a white paper detailing the critical funding issue, the college’s response, and its request for an annual budget increase to cover the deficit. The two-page document is online at: http://www.vetmed.wsu.edu/announcements/OSU100302.pdf.