On Oct. 20, Vermont State College students expressed their outrage and dissatisfaction about the lack of state aid allotted annually to the “public institutions” under the VSC system. Their cries for support have been heard, if not by all, at least by a few.
Though there was no political representation on the Castleton campus last week, Sen., Joe Benning (Caledonia County) was at Lyndon State College to hear what the students had to say. When asked how he felt about the issue, Benning was on student’s side.
“I agree that Vermont needs to provide more aid for students, and I have been and will continue to be working in the legislature to do just that,” Benning said.
Benning is the clerk on the Vermont State Institutions Committee, a Senate committee that has already fought for a reserved a portion of the annual state budget specifically for Vermont education.
“My job this year will be to make sure that money stays in the budget instead of going to Irene [efforts],” said Benning.
Rutland County Sen. Bill Carris was out of town for the rallies, but when informed of them agreed with students
“I am certainly with you,” Carris said.
Among the senators reached for comment, there was an abundance of support for the issue.
“Education is still the answer,” said Sen. Harold Giard. “My family all went on to college, and at a much lower cost than you folks are going for today!”
While Giard agrees the state should support the state colleges more, he also believes the colleges need to reevaluate the way they operate.
“I would challenge the Vermont State Colleges to think about this: can we do things differently?” asked Giard. He questions how efficiently the VSC system runs and how efficiently its students are educated. Currently the students at any of the VSC schools are given a week long break every five weeks throughout the semester.
“Would more class days be more efficient?” he asked. “Maybe without those [vacations] in thefour years you’re there, you could have been done in maybe two or three.”
Students and faculty alike agree that these rallies were just the first of many public outcries from those being affected by the continuously decreasing percentage of state funds being allotted to the Vermont State Colleges.
“I see this as the first step,” said Linda Olson, president of the Vermont State College Faculty Federation. “What I want to
see is increased awareness, and hopefully get support along the way.”
The Vermont Senate resumes in January. Olson as well as students and faculty state-wide hope this issue will be at the forefront of their agenda. Students are already planning to head to Montpelier to lobby in February.