The cost of college education is on the rise across the nation and Castleton State College is no exception. Though the recent increase of tuition cost by 4 percent for all Vermont State schools may not seem much, for some students it’s just enough to make life all the more difficult.
“I pay my own way through school,” said Castleton junior Stephanie Unaitis. “Some people can just continue on and rack up the debt for the long run, but for people like me who have to pay for school, rent, and food, a ‘small’ increase like this is so much of a hassle.”
Though many students will have to deal with an increase of only a few hundred dollars, many students without loans will be forced to pay between $400 and $1,000 more in their tuition bills this year depending on whether they’re in state or from outside Vermont.
Since the early 1970’s, state tax funds appropriated toward education has decreased significantly. Recent statistics released by the Vermont State Colleges United Professionals ranks Vermont higher education as being 49th among all states.
“The tuition costs for students are just too high,” says sociology professor and Castleton’s teacher’s union representative Linda Olson.
“The only way to survive is to increase the tuition, the only way to do so is charge students. But loans and grants just aren’t enough to make up for that increase for students.”
On April 15, Olson along with two students from her Sociological Theory class traveled to Montpellier to talk to legislators about the tuition increase.
Stephanie Terry, one of the students present, remarked how despite the trip being informative about the democratic process in Vermont, representatives didn’t see higher education as a priority.
“When we were there voting on a higher education budget had passed and they had moved on to health care with a focus on human rights, so they sort of avoided any talk about tuition,” said Terry. “I did see how effective unions were and think that if we can get more education advocates and a big group of college students to turn out we can make it effective.”
Terry is the first of her family to enter college and with four younger siblings planning to follow suit she worries that they too will face high tuition costs without necessary change.
Perhaps more frightening than high tuition is the lack of awareness by most students on the matter.
Mark Manjuck, a junior at Castleton, recently polled students in a roving survey for the Castleton Video magazine asking what they thought of the increase.
“Not many students were aware how much they were affected by the increase to their education,” said Manjuck.
And what can be the expected impact for incoming students to the college? Though tuition continues to increase in Vermont, admissions have remained at a stable level for not only Castleton but other state schools also.
“Anywhere you go you’ll face high tuition costs. That’s a universal constant right now,” said Dean of Enrollment Maurice Ouimet. “We try to educate students and their families as best we can so they fully understand what they will face financially and what they need to consider.”
Olson stresses that students don’t have to simply accept ever-increasing tuition rates.
“It’s a small state, but that’s our advantage as well,” said Olson. “We have the opportunity to have our voices heard by those in charge and really make a difference and change things.