Students, Faculty, Staff and Employers Join Vermont State College System Leaders
To Press for Affordable Access to Vermont’s Public Colleges and Universities
Montpelier, Vt. – Students, faculty, staff and employers from around the state joined Vermont State College System (VSCS) leaders today to raise the alarm about the impacts of Vermont’s low level of State support for public higher education.
At a time when we urgently need to grow our workforce and encourage our young people to stay, extremely low State investment in our public colleges and universities is making higher education unaffordable for many Vermonters.
“A college education is the key to my future career. Unfortunately, our own state college system is becoming less and less affordable for too many Vermont students and their families; I know students who may not come back next semester because they can’t afford to,” said Adriana Eldred, a junior at Northern Vermont University-Johnson. “We are here today to ask the Governor and Legislature to make college affordable.”
Very low state support has resulted in far too many Vermont high school students making the decision that they just can’t afford to go on to college, whether that is to pursue a degree or a workforce-ready credential. Almost half of the state’s high school graduates – 42% – do not go on to college, the lowest high school to college continuation rate in New England. The figures are more troubling for low-income families, with 63% of Vermont’s economically-disadvantaged high school graduates not continuing on to any education after high school. This low rate of college attendance results in a lack of skilled labor for Vermont employers.
Cathy Tempesta, Vice President for Human Resources at GW Plastics in Bethel, spoke of her company’s struggle to find qualified, trained employees. “The Vermont State College System has been a great partner for our company in developing programs to educate and train our workers. We need to ensure these programs are accessible to as many Vermonters as possible. We can and must invest in the workforce of the future.”
The VSCS is requesting a multi-year commitment to bring the System in line with its New England peers. In the region, public 2- and 4-year colleges and universities receive an average of 30% of their funding from their states. The VSCS receives only 17% of its budget from the State. An increase to 30% would result in an additional $25 million, which is why the VSCS is requesting a multi-year investment to reach that benchmark.
If the Governor and Legislature commit to the multi-year increase, the Vermont State Colleges System would make college more affordable by freezing tuition for Vermonters for at least two years. Raising the State’s investment would also allow the VSCS to expand critical supports for students – especially first-generation college students – to help them succeed in college. And, it would fuel innovation so the VSCS can better supply our employers with the trained workforce they need.
Vermont has the lowest levels of college continuation in New England, the highest numbers of young people leaving the state, and the largest student cost burden in the nation. While the State cannot move these numbers in one year, sustained new investment from the State will allow us to begin to address these critical challenges.
“Our students walk through our doors seeking opportunities to improve their lives,” said Joyce Judy, President of the Community College of Vermont. “But fewer students have access to those opportunities. The State of Vermont has a choice to make: it can choose to support our students, our working families, and our employers. Or, it can continue to stand by while fewer Vermonters have access to the education that is going to support their futures in this state. We urge our elected officials to make the right choice for our current and future students, our economy and Vermont.”
The Vermont State Colleges System includes Castleton University, the Community College of Vermont, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College. For more information, visit www.vsc.edu