Stitely: Vermont’s private colleges find innovative ways to reduce costs

Editor’s note: This op-ed is by Susan Stitely, president of the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges.

The cost of college is high. As many high school seniors begin the annual ritual of deciding which college to attend, they and their parents are concerned about cost. Vermont’s private colleges share that concern and are introducing ways to make college affordable so that more reap the benefits of a college degree.

For starters, Vermont’s private colleges give students $145.8 million from their own resources to help reduce the cost, with a majority on campus receiving aid. For example, at Bennington College 79 percent of students receive grants and scholarships as compared to 66 percent at Harvard.

The average student debt load for graduates of Vermont’s private colleges typically ranges between $17,220 and $29,839. Unlike the purchase of a new car, however, the degree grows in value.

After factoring in the expense of going to college and the four years of potential earnings that students give up while they are in college, a 2011 Pew Research Center analysis found that adults with a college degree earn over half a million dollars more over a lifetime than those without a degree. That’s a big difference.

In light of these realities, Vermont’s private colleges are increasing student aid and making additional commitments. Here are some of them.

Green Mountain College will match UVMs tuition rate for Vermont students and guarantees that students will graduate in four years or the college will cover all tuition costs for any additional course needed.

Burlington College froze its tuition rate for the 2012-13 academic year and offers a four-year tuition guarantee to full-time incoming first year students.

Champlain College has launched “Personalized Access to Higher Education” (PATHe), a program that offers adult learners a faster and more affordable way to obtain a degree through the college’s online and continuing education division.

Green Mountain College will match UVMs tuition rate for Vermont students and guarantees that students will graduate in four years or the college will cover all tuition costs for any additional course needed.

Goddard College has tripled institutional aid issued to students in the past year and ensures that its tuition is less than or within the same price range as comparable programs at UVM.

Landmark College is providing more scholarship support, as well as generating more short-term programs and e-learning opportunities to provide students greater flexibility and allow them to graduate more quickly.

Marlboro College has lowered the minimum family contribution for tuition to 12.5 percent from 15 percent and significantly increased awards for financial aid.

For the last two years, Middlebury College has limited the increase in its comprehensive fee (tuition, room, and board) to the Consumer Price Index for the previous year plus one percentage point (CPI+1).

The College of Saint Joseph is offering new scholarships that will increase in value each year to reduce the overall costs of a bachelor’s degree.

The bottom line is that by 2018, six in 10 American jobs will require some form of postsecondary education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Moreover, the unemployment rate for those with a bachelor’s or advanced degree was 4.1 percent as compared to 8.4 percent for high school graduates with no college, according to 2012 U.S. Department of Labor data.

You’d be surprised how affordable a private college education can be. With these affordability initiatives, financial aid, and scholarships, most students pay less than the published price. They also enjoy the advantages of a close knit community, small class sizes, and strong mentoring relationships with professors.

As college-bound students and their parents plan for the future, Vermont’s private colleges will continue seeking innovative ways to make higher education affordable and give students what they need to succeed.

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  • Alex Barnham

    The ENTIRE educational system is, in fact, controlled. Think of a school system that is truly free. The best teachers in the country could become available to EACH AND EVERY student. They could stay right in their own homes and never have to risk their lives to travel to another location. That is progressive, intelligent, and economical. The house of cards is what we have now and no one is willing to rebuild it properly with today’s tools. The ENTIRE educational system from top to bottom is a bloated, mandate infused monopoly run by corporations and unions. Remove the money and allow students the freedom to develop for the advancement of mankind.

  • Walter Hildebrandt

    The following is a correct to my previous post

    Alex, you are on to something. I am taking a free online course from Duke University. The course is great. There are free online “study groups” where students can study with each other. If the course is taken for college credit, a student can exchange email with the professors. Online teaching has some limitations. The main limitation is no online lab (no hands-on opportunity. However online opportunity can supplement a hands-on opportunity.

    Big name schools like Harvard and U of California are developing courses There is a national organization coordinating the colleges. Most students are from foreign countries. Why are Vermont colleges not involved?

  • rosemarie jackowski

    Is the value of a college degree becoming a myth?
    The focus should be on education and the development of critical thinking skills, not the piece of paper.

    By perpetuating the myth – we are also adding to the prejudice against those who are not degreed. Refusing to employ anyone because of his lack of a degree is a form of discrimination. It continues to keep many locked into the socio-economic class system.

    When discussing this topic, I am often asked how I would like it if a surgeon operating on me had no degrees. My answer…Fine, if he had a long and successful apprenticeship.

    Home schooling and self learning are easier now than ever…and there are no student loans to be re-paid.

  • Walter Hildebrandt

    I agree with you. The focus should be on the development of critical thinking skills.

    I agree with you. Home schooling and self learning are some of the good tolls that can be used to develop critical thinking.

    It so happens the course I am taking at Duke is for developing critical thinking. there are a number of schools that are offering free courses on developing critical thinking.

    What are some of the other tolls that can be used to develop critical thinking? Each one of us may find our own tools to education ourselves. Many teaches believe the teacher learns more than the student. I see where home schooling is probably a good tool for you to use. Thank you for contributing to society.

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