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No, this isn't about Otter, Flounder, Boon, or D-Day. This article is about veterinary schools, the economic downturn, and its effect on Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, one of two fully accredited private veterinary schools. Tufts, located in Medford, Massachusetts, is, according to university president Lawrence Bacow, "a university with an unprecedented diversity of programs, exceptional faculty and staff, and bright and talented students." In varying degrees, the same might be said about the Cummings School.

In her javmaNews article, Veterinary colleges adapting to colder economic climate, Malinda Osborne notes that less income from states, teaching hospitals, and the private sector spells cutbacks:

The recession's impact on veterinary schools and colleges can be seen in what isn't on those campuses. Mothballed teaching positions, delayed building projects and equipment purchases, and smaller endowments plague just about every institution, officials say. All this after many of them were required to return portions of state funding midyear and before they have had a chance to deal with the dramatic cuts expected for this coming fiscal year's budget.

Dr. H. Michael Chaddock, deputy executive director of the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges, said every veterinary college has been affected to some degree.

"The majority of them are state-funded institutions. Really, today, that is a misnomer. They're not state-funded but state-assisted," he said.

State funding accounts for 10 percent to 40 percent of veterinary colleges' budgets. The percentage has steadily decreased for the past decade, Dr. Chaddock said, forcing veterinary colleges to rely more on increased tuition or teaching hospital fees, private donations, grants, and research funding from the private sector. He says this also has caused institutions to be run increasingly like businesses.

"Deans operate more as a CEO, now. Certainly any dean would tell you more of his or her time is spent on economic issues, fundraising, and development," Dr. Chaddock said. "There are only 24 hours in a day, so whatever increased time the dean or associate dean is spending in those areas, that's time taken away from academics, research programs, and collaboration."

The situation at Tufts is typical:

At Tufts University, Dean Deborah T. Kochevar said the downturn has caused the Cummings School of Veterinary to be not only more efficient but also more innovative and entrepreneurial.

For example, the school hopes to create a master's degree program in conservation medicine.

"For us, that type of program will broaden our presence in that arena and will be another area for tuition to be derived from," Dr. Kochevar said.

Tufts, one of two fully accredited private veterinary schools, receives about $5.5 million from Massachusetts annually. At about 8 percent of the school's budget, she said, that puts Tufts last in state appropriations among veterinary colleges. Also, with less state revenue, legislators had at one point proposed to cut off the school's funding entirely. Dr. Kochevar figures very limited state funding can be both a challenge and a blessing, because even if the school sees cuts, it's less difficult to make up the difference.

Osborne goes on to note circumstances at other vet schools such as those at Cornell University and Kansas State University. The article summarizes the situation thusly:

"The bottom line is veterinary education is extremely expensive, and the profession is becoming more complex and larger, and state funding is not keeping up," [Cornell's] Dr. Kotlikoff said. "In the future, it's only going to continue."

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