By Anthony Pollina
Washington County State Senator
I will be introducing legislation to change the way higher education is funded in Vermont and direct more dollars towards the Vermont State College system.
I believe most of our tax dollars should go to the colleges that attract and educate the most Vermonters. But, now we are doing the opposite.
Under the new plan, state funding would be based on the number of Vermonters attending the Vermont State Colleges or University of Vermont. The result would be more funding for the state colleges and less for the University.
Now, not only does the Vermont State College system receive less funding than the University of Vermont, but it then must split that money between five institutions. For example, this year we appropriated $67 million in state funds, UVM got $42.5 million, and the State College System, all five colleges combined received $24.3 million, even though the state colleges serve many more Vermonters.
More than 70 percent of Vermonters attending public colleges in Vermont choose a Vermont state college. Less than 30 percent go to UVM. Our funding should reflect that. Under my plan if the state colleges are educating 70% of the Vermonters, they would receive 70% of the available funds.
It is no accident that our colleges are priced out of reach of many Vermonters and it is not because the colleges are inefficient or wasteful. The fact is, since 1980 the state has deliberately under-funded our colleges, causing big tuition increases, more stress and more debt for students. Since 2008, we have only level funded our colleges and we now rank last in state support for higher education.
If we want to make a college education affordable, if we want to reduce student and family debt, if we want young people to stay in Vermont, we have to provide better funding for our state colleges; for the sake of our families and economy. Changing the funding formula is a good step.
We should also do what most states do and make sure Vermont Student Assistance (VSAC) grants go to students attending college in Vermont. I already introduced legislation to do that.
The Vermont State Colleges include Johnson State, Lyndon State, Castleton University, Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont.