Vermont News Briefs

Vermont lags in state support for higher education but, hey, we’re not New Hampshire

Vermont is spending $931 less per student on higher education than it did five years ago. That’s nearly a 19 percent reduction. It’s less of a plunge than most other states took during the recession — the average decrease was 28 percent — but Vermont was at the back of the pack to begin with.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) compiled the numbers using Grapevine stats, which are put out annually by the Illinois State University and widely used for higher education finance research. CBPP’s report, released in March, can be found here.

The Grapevine data for 2013 shows Vermont is ranked 46th in higher education spending per $1,000 of personal income and state spending per capita.

Vermont looks like a spendthrift, however, compared to neighboring New Hampshire. One of the few states that ranked below Vermont in the first place, New Hampshire is one of two states that has cut its higher education spending in half since 2008.

The spending trend isn’t new — it’s been going on for at least that last 25 years, according to the CBPP.

Universities have filled in the gap left by state funding cuts by raising tuition rates. Seven states have seen tuition hikes of more than 50 percent during the same five-year period (2008-2013), and 18 states have seen an increase of more than 25 percent.

Tuition at Vermont’s public four-year colleges and universities has risen roughly 18 percent during the same period. That comes out to an average increase in tuition of $2,050.

The Fiscal Year 2014 budget includes an additional $2.5 million for the Vermont State Colleges and the University of Vermont to mitigate the impacts of their respective 4 percent and 3 percent tuition hikes. Gov. Peter Shumlin highlighted this when he signed the bill into law on Monday. He noted that it was the first increase in the state’s appropriation to higher education in five years.

The Senate passed a bill in March that pursues a much more ambitious path to increase state funding for higher education. It doesn’t make actual changes to the state’s appropriation, but it creates a committee that would be tasked with coming up with a policy to restore the 1980 ratio of state funding to student tuition at the Vermont State Colleges.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Anthony Pollina, P/D-Washington, states, “In 1980, 51 percent of the revenue supporting our Vermont State Colleges came from state appropriations and 49 percent came from student tuition. Now, after decades of underfunding, state appropriations provide less than 20 percent of the Vermont State Colleges’ revenue and over 80 percent comes from student tuition. This is a huge cost shift onto students and families, many of whom simply cannot afford it.”

The bill didn’t make it out of the House and is sitting in the Education Committee.

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Alicia Freese

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  • rosemarie jackowski

    If there is enough money to pay the president of UVM $447,000 per year, maybe too much money is going to the system. Students, taxpayers, and ordinary citizens should weigh in on this topic.

  • Walter Carpenter

    Agreed. Not to mention the clown before the current uvm prez, Too much is going to the wrong places. We should not be subsidizing this huge salary when we can barely afford the cost of a credit there.

  • sandra bettis

    apparently we’re not texas either – pretty sad when texas beats us at anything – esp education. no wonder all our young folks are leaving.

  • sandra bettis

    ps – and texas is not beating us by just a sliver by any means.

  • Dave Bellini

    Using percentages is the wrong measure. Of course the state’s percentage is shrinking. The real problem is the unabated rise in cost. The colleges have zero interest in addressing the real underlying problem.

    College is a business. As long as people are willing to keep over-paying for a mediocre product, there’s no motivation for colleges to lower costs.

  • Pete Novick

    The leaders of the University of Vermont system may want to consider attracting and admitting more students from other countries, particularly those who want to study mathematics, applied science and engineering.

    Foreign students pay full tuition, room, board and fees up front in order to qualify for a student visa. So the impact on university finances would be minimal.

    By attracting foreign students with strong academic credentials in these important areas of study, Vermont would be on the high road to improving the quality of instruction, as top students everywhere have the practical effect of raising the bar for academic excellence.

    Who knows? Vermont could then provide seed funding for high tech start ups provided the start ups are domiciled here in the Green Mountain State. Such an initiative may well attract talented people from all over – people who are already attracted to Vermont and all it has to offer in terms of quality of life, but are reluctant to move here because of the lack og cutting edge employment opportunities.

    Of course, this would take a good 5-10 years to get up and running, with no guarantee of success.

    What do you say, Governor Shumlin?

    Maybe I should just go back to doing my laundry….

  • Pete Novick

    US News and World Report ranks the University of Vermont 40th out of 115 public universities in the current survey.

    I know these rankings have weaknesses, but they can be useful starting points for university leadership, if so inclined, to embark on initiatives to improve academic excellence.

    Why isn’t the University of Vermont pursuing a strategic partnership with say, McGill University, which is also a public university, to provide access to all McGill has to offer for top University of Vermont students?

    Did you know an student from the United States would pay about $17,000 per year for tuition, room and board at McGill?

    A Vermont resident student at UVM would pay $28,000. Do you really think the education you get at UVM is worth the extra $44,000 over 4 years?

    McGill is a world class research university where in post programs, the language of instruction is English.

    Why would anyone settle for UVM, if they were competitive for admission to McGill?

    Why do Vermonters settle for mediocrity?

    Get the lead out Governor Shumlin and start thinking about real out of the box solutions.

  • Harriet Cady

    I agree that to much is paid for the leadership for if they were worth that money they would be able to attract the money that would keep UVM affordable.
    I am appalled at the salaries of many professors who work very little having associates teach their classes and writing books which have to be bought by students who have no choice.
    My daughter a Phi Beta Kapp dgreed student with two honors degrees was able to work and pay most of her college expenses but I doubt today this would be true given the high costs for staff and athletics.

  • Scott Mackey

    Concerning the headline:

    The in-state University of New Hampshire tuition, room and board, and fees appears to be about the same as the comparable amount at UVM (both around $28,000).

    So I guess the joke is really on us as Vermont taxpayers. Taxpayer funded support is higher yet in-state tuition is the same.

    • Ron Pulcer

      The NH comparison is interesting in that New Hampshire does not have a sales tax or income tax. How then does NH provide more funding for their public higher education institutions?

      They do collect Interstate tolls. NH was apparently collecting tolls early in the Interstate highway system, and their tolls were “grandfathered” in, whereas other states like Vermont are forbidden by federal government to charge tolls. I-93 was based on a pre-existing toll road in NH.

      New Hampshire also has a chain of state liquor stores. There are a couple of big NH liquor stores at the rest areas on I-93, south of Concord.

      When I was teaching a class at CCV, I pointed out to students that on one hand, CCV has one of the more affordable tuition rates in Vermont. But on the other hand, in comparison to other community colleges in the country, CCV is one of the more expensive community colleges. For example, the out of state/foreign tuition at Macomb Community College (one of my alma maters, north of Detroit) is now $176 per credit, and is lower than the in-state rate for CCV, which is now $223 per credit.
      The in-state (and out-of-county) tuition rate at Macomb is $136 per credit ($87 less per credit than CCV).

      One way to keep more young Vermonters in Vermont is to make the tuition more affordable.

  • Mary L. Stephens

    Many college students need to take out student loans to pay tuition and other college expenses. Without these loans, they simply could not attend. Unfortunately, the formerly affordable, far-sighted Stafford loan program has benn turned into what appears to be a windfall for lending entities (and their associates) and a ‘must have’ for colleges and universities. The losers in the equation are students and their families. Students who have had to borrow many tens of thousands of dollars to complete a degree are graduating into immediate crushing debt due to exorbitant interest rates on these loans…. and the interest rates will skyrocket soon (July, I think) without congressional intervention. If VT can find ways to reduce tuition at UVM and the State colleges, that will help VT students. I am convinced, however, that the problems of financing a college education with student loans will continue to haunt even well-qualified VT students as long as the program remains a ‘cash cow’ for lenders. Senators Sanders and Warren are directing significant efforts to changing this situation.