Vet Tech program on the chopping block in UMA's proposed cuts

BANGOR, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- with more than 3 million in cuts needed to balance its budget, University of Maine at Augusta has had to do some substantial cutting. One of the programs on the chopping block is the veterinary technician program at UMA's Bangor Campus.

Natasha Brown is a third year student in UMA's vet tech program, and if the proposed cuts go through she could be one of the last to graduate through the program.

"I've always loved animals I've always felt like this was my calling," she said.

Brown, her classmates, and staff in the program are urging UMA to reconsider. Allison Simpson is a licensed vet tech who is one of the five support staff that could lose their job after the 2015 class graduates in 2018.

"I think the program is worth saving and there are ways to save it if we look creatively," Simpson said.

University of Maine Augusta is under orders to trim 3 million dollars as the entire Umaine System grapples with shrinking enrollments and less revenue. The Veterinary Technician program is an associates degree program, one which UMA officials say is more appropriate in the states community college system.

"We had to make a series of short term and long term decisions on budget reductions both to balance this years budget but also long term going forward so we're not repeating this year after year after year," explained Bob Stein, the director of external communications for UMA.

The Veterinary Tech program may seem like an easy runs two hundred thousand in the red, but those in the program say there's more to consider than whats on the balance sheet.

"We're incredibly unique. We're considered STEM which is science technology engineering and math and we are a very women driven program," explained Simpson.

In addition the program provides no cost spays and nueters to non-profit humane societies and animal rescues from all across the state. And it provides veterinarians with trained staff. Dr. David Cloutier of Veazie Veterinary Clinic says much of what vet techs do, they must be licensed to do. If there aren't enough vet tech, then veterinarians will have to do that work which could mean higher costs passed on to clients.

Cloutier says vet techs in his office start at just under $15 dollars an hour. He says those are good paying jobs that might be worth the cost of the program.

"We're also talking about individuals that are after graduation, mostly staying local within this community or surrounding communities and then earning a wage paying taxes staying in maine so if our tax dollars are paying for that program, those graduates, some of those graduates will be contributing to that system as well."

The program wouldn't be phased out until after the 2015 class graduates which would be in 2018.
And UMA says if the program can get outside support or find a way to be self sustaining the decision could be reversed.
Currently the only other Vet Tech program in Maine is at York County Community College, but it is very new and is still seeking accreditation. The UMA veterinary technicians program graduated 14 students this year, which is pretty close to it's average graduation class.


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