Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine and Kentucky: A Relationship for Nearly 7 Decades

Posted on Feb 7, 2020

Since 1951, aspiring veterinary students from Kentucky have had an opportunity to apply to one of the most well-respected vet schools in the country and retain in-state tuition levels.

Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine, commonly referred to as Auburn Vet-Med, began a partnership with the Commonwealth, thanks to the efforts of Dr. Redding S. Sugg, the third dean of the College. He helped found the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB), and through that board this partnership began with a total of 12 Kentuckians participating the first year. Since then, that number has more than tripled giving more students from this state an opportunity to attend at the lower in-state tuition rate.

Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) has a long history of supporting this partnership, according to KFB President Mark Haney.

“The relationship we have with Auburn is undoubtedly one of the most successful I have seen in all my years of involvement in the agricultural industry. Our farm families depend on proper veterinary care of their animals and most of the vets we have servicing rural Kentucky received their training and degrees from Auburn,” he said.

Dr. M. Daniel Givens, a professor and Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at Auburn Vet-Med said the Kentucky students attending have become a part of the fabric of the college.

“Understanding that the majority of practicing veterinarians in Kentucky are Auburn graduates, and understanding that Auburn has a very strong commitment to the Commonwealth, it is just a very unique thing to see that you can have an enduring relationship that is mutually beneficial for both parties over such a long period of time,” he said. “I see it as a positive experience for both the college and Kentucky.”

So often, many students considering a career in veterinarian medicine, take into consideration the cost of doing so, which can sometimes change their minds. Givens said the in-state tuition option for Kentucky students can certainly make a difference.

“We see that the cost of a veterinary medicine education is notably high and because of the opportunity that Kentucky students have to attend Auburn and pay in-state tuition, when they sit down and weigh the benefits and the cost of an education, it is often that in-state tuition is a deciding factor for them,” he said.

The student’s perspective  

Luke Trapp from Butler, Kentucky is a member of Auburn Vet-Med’s Class of 2023. Having grown up on a cattle farm, he saw a need in his community for a large-animal vet, from an early age. And it was something that spurred his interest in veterinary medicine.   

“While many of the students here will choose to go a different route, such as a small-animal practice, when they graduate, I saw the value a large or mixed animal practice would bring to the area where I grew up. And being a veterinarian is one of the only things that I’ve thought about for the past five or six years of my life,” he said. “But so many of the Kentucky students would probably not be here if not for the partnership that allows us to pay in-state tuition.”

Logan Matney, from Center, Kentucky, is set to graduate from Auburn this year. He said that without the in-state tuition program, he definitely would not be at the vet school.

“Without the partnership between Auburn and Kentucky, I would, 100 percent, not be at Auburn. In fact, if there were no options to attend a school for in-state tuition, I more than likely would not be pursuing veterinary medicine as a career,” he said. “I am forever grateful to both Kentucky and Auburn for the opportunity. I have not only received an excellent education but have made some of the greatest friends and memories possible in my time at Auburn.”

In addition to the monetary benefit seen at Auburn, Trapp looks at his journey as meaning more than just animal care, and knows the journey is being made possible because of the Auburn-Kentucky partnership.

“I know that I can put my knowledge toward not only the betterment of animals and production agriculture, but the public health system in general,” he said. “And I think it is really cool how we highlight that here at Auburn University not only knowing you are assisting an animal in maintaining the production system but addressing public health that is linked back to animals in terms of zoonotic diseases and control.”

Allie Ingram is a third-year veterinary student from Greensburg, Kentucky who also grew up on a farm where she gained her first experiences working with animals.  

“Working with our cattle was my first introduction to veterinary medicine and inspired me to pursue this career. But I also had two dogs growing up,” she said. “Even as a freshman, while attending Western Kentucky University, it was made very clear to me the special relationship that existed between Kentucky and Auburn. I was encouraged to consider all of my options, but my heart was already set on Auburn.”

In addition to her time spent on the family farm, Ingram also worked at a local animal hospital as an undergraduate, which also helped to reinforce her decision to be a vet.

“The practice consisted of five Auburn veterinarians, and I admired them all greatly,” she said. “They, too, encouraged me to consider all of my options, especially since I was applying as a third-year student but emphasized the amazing price per educational opportunity that Auburn presented thanks to the Auburn/Kentucky partnership.”

Continuing the tradition

With a history as long and successful as the Kentucky-Auburn partnership has been, budgetary decisions still have to be considered when the time arises to renew the funding used by this state to maintain the in-state tuition levels for those students from the Commonwealth who get accepted and make their way south to the Plains of Alabama.

Haney said the dollars going into the program are well-spent and should be looked at as an investment in these young people who will ultimately contribute to the state’s economy by way of being practicing veterinarians.

“The most important thing we can do, as an organization, is make an investment in our young people, and support programs that do just that,” he said. “The dollars utilized by this state for the Kentucky-Auburn partnership will come back to us in the form of dedicated citizens returning to the Commonwealth who will play an important role in keeping their communities alive and vibrant for generations to come.”

Givens said Auburn has been an outstanding steward of those dollars that are going to the Kentucky students.

“What I mean by that is, the Kentucky dollars go directly to Kentucky students to decrease their cost of tuition and those students return to the Commonwealth, at a very high rate, to serve the needs of animal owners within the state,” he said. “We think that the program speaks for itself.”

Givens noted that when you consider that so many of these Kentucky students are coming back to their state to practice, it becomes an economic development aspect, and a great investment on one end that produces dividends on the other.

“When you have a veterinarian, who doesn’t have that in-state support going into rural communities, that creates real challenges. That vet almost has to create an income of dollars outside of that community to support that educational debt,” he said. “Whereas, if you have a vet with low educational debt, the income they make stays in that community.”