On November 1, 2023

More support needed on college system


Dear Editor,

For the benefit of Vermont, it is our duty and our obligation to serve, educate, and sustain our citizenry, yet Vermont allocates fewer public dollars to its state college system than any other state.
How do we ensure stability in our public colleges, engage the public, and insist that the Vermont Legislature provide deeper legislative oversight and involvement to protect these important legacy institutions from further erosion and possible closure?
It is our belief that the state of Vermont is obligated to restore our public universities to their rightful and necessary place among our institutions of higher learning to do what they were established to do: serve the people of Vermont. Yet, we cannot do so without thoroughly reviewing the investment made, or not, in these colleges and more importantly in our students.

Despite the infusion of funds over the past few years from the $10.9 billion dollars Vermont received during the Covid crisis, and of which the VSC received $43.32 million, our public universities are struggling. More than 70% of VSC students are from Vermont. UVM alone received $36.79 million, just under 15% less than the VSC received. Fewer than 23% of UVM’s students are from Vermont.

Over the past five years, the Vermont State College System has seen two name changes, a loss of numerous programs, faculty, staff, and administrator attrition through retirement and outsourcing to adjunct online faculty, and a poorlyconceived, badly researched recommendation to close libraries and redefine athletics.

At the same time, the chancellors’ office administrators earn 87% more than the national average for their work. This ongoing struggle has shaken our public universities to their very foundation. The cost of these changes was ill-advised — and could have been better used to support students in their educational pursuits. The No. 1 problem with Vermont students attending our public college system is affordability. 

In 2021, near the beginning of the conversion of our public colleges to serve a workforce development agenda, Jake Wheeler, a 50-plus year resident of the Northeast Kingdom, said of Lyndon and Johnson, “NVU is a major economic and cultural driver in Vermont’s northern region. In fact, NVU’s total economic impact in northern Vermont is conservatively estimated at more than $100 million annually. NVU’s students and graduates are trained for Vermont’s job market — ski area managers, mental health professionals, teachers, business owners, and meteorologists… just some examples.”

Wheeler went on to say, “Additionally, NVU brings 18,000 people to our region every year. These students, graduates, faculty, staff, and family members boost our local economy every single day by skiing and riding at our local mountains and Nordic trails, biking at Kingdom Trails, buying from our local stores, eating at our area restaurants, and more. Furthermore, NVU provides vital access for Vermont students who might not otherwise attend college.”

Mary L. Collins,     

Lake Elmore  

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