Regulatory environment blamed for closure of vet tech centers

Gainful employment regulation blamed for vet tech closures. | Iakov Flimimonov
Excessive regulations -- particularly those focused on for-profit colleges -- are causing critical shortages within key skill-based trades, including veterinary technicians, according to some experts.

Programs to train veterinary technicians are closing despite the shortages and despite being a relatively high-paying trade, according to a for-profit sector trade group, Career Education Colleges Universities (CECU).

The gainful employment regulation, announced last year by the U.S. Department of Education, is cited as a key reason for the closures.

“It’s a challenging regulatory environment, including the gainful employment regulation,” Noah Black, CECU’s vice president of communications, told Higher Education Tribune.

With veterinary technicians, there is “a high investment cost but a good payoff, but the department’s regulations do not recognize that,” said Black, adding that more than 30 private sector programs are in the process of shutting down.

Under regulations announced last year, a program is considered to lead to gainful employment if the estimated annual loan payment of a typical graduate does not exceed 20 percent of his or her discretionary income, or 8 percent of total earnings. Programs that exceed these levels would be at risk of losing their ability to participate in taxpayer-funded federal student aid programs.

The regulations, according to the Department of Education, are supposed to separate programs that provide affordable training that leads to good-paying jobs from those that leave students with poor earning prospects and high amounts of debt.

But it's not working that way, Black and others argue. Veterinary technicians immediately have good job prospects with good pay -- and while there is debt, it can shed quickly.

“I think the big issue is cost of higher education,” Black said. “We need a solution that addresses the costs that does not go after the higher debt level, does not single out the debt level. Congress needs to stop executive overreach.”

CECU focused on veterinary technicians as it continues to survey career-specific educational programs. It cited Bureau of Labor Statistics, which reported 7.9 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.9 million jobs remain unfilled in America.

This crisis exists because employers demand "job-ready" employees, and prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate career education and training, CECU officials believe.
Employment of veterinary technologists and technicians is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is significantly faster than the projected 7 percent average job growth for all occupations. Nearly 18,000 new veterinary technicians will be needed to fill these jobs.

In a recent Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association article, of the more than 30 private sector veterinary programs, the major concern centered around the regulatory environment, including the gainful employment regulation.

“Students in our sector’s veterinary technology programs learn the fundamentals such as diagnostic imaging, laboratory procedures and veterinary office practices in a practical, hands-on manner,” Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of CECU, said. “This classwork is paired with externship rotations that include various animal care environments to give students real-world experience. The importance of veterinary programs cannot be overstated, nor can the threat of burdensome regulations on the future existence of these programs. It is clear the demand exists for these graduates, but out-of-touch regulations threaten to eliminate programs training students for in demand careers.”

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