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June 14, 2005

Veterinary School Proposal Weighed

A preliminary report on a proposal to establish a veterinary college at UConn shows that it could cost up to $95 million.

The proposal, discussed by the Board of Trustees at a meeting earlier this month but not voted upon, says that demand for veterinarians is growing throughout the United States and that at least 19 Connecticut residents are enrolled as first-year students in accredited colleges of veterinary medicine elsewhere in the country.

There are no public veterinary colleges in New England, but there is one at Tufts University outside Boston.

The proposal, which looked at accommodating 100 students, includes three options:

  • building a program with a veterinary hospital, with a cost of at least $95 million in construction and $25 million annually, less tuition revenue;
  • building a $35 million facility, with $14 million in annual costs, less tuition revenue, and having students obtain clinical experience elsewhere;  
  • contracting with other schools to educate UConn students at a cost of $3.1 million, less tuition revenue.

Peter J. Nicholls, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said the program will be weighed in a cost/benefit analysis, as work continues on the academic plan. Although veterinary schools can help universities raise funds from private sources, there is not a huge demand for UConn to build one and the program would require a significant investment, he said.

Trustee Michael Martinez said he feels a veterinary school is important because it is part of the nation’s first line of defense against terrorism and a link to food production.

“We say we want to be one of the top schools in the country. We need to do something bold, something out of the ordinary,” Martinez said.

Lenworth Jacobs, chair of the academic affairs committee of the Board of Trustees, said the issue is who will pay to start such a school, adding: “It is not possible to take these dollars out of existing resources.”