Clearly, the cost of tuition is too high. With enrollment down, students transferring or dropping out and the costs rising, we certainly have a huge problem to solve.
This year, legislatures and representatives alike want to blame Hurricane Irene for the lack of state support in financing affordable higher education. While this has brought up new issues, tasks to be completed, and diplomacy to institute, there will always be a “Hurricane Irene” and an excuse of some sort will abound to make education a lower priority.
At the Feb. 7 rally at the state capital, more than 150 concerned faculty, staff, students and supporters gathered to make their message clear that enough is enough.
One student leader from the VSC system passionately almost pleaded with legislators for help. “We don’t go out to eat, we don’t go to the movies, we don’t do things with friends, we cannot afford to buy things. We beg of you just this, let us have our education.”
And isn’t he right? When was the last frivolous spending a college student did without thinking, “Oh damn, I really shouldn’t have spent that,” or “I should’ve saved that for gas to get home.”
It’s getting and harder to pay for college, this much is clear. What’s not clear is why the generation who had free or subsidized education before us won’t recognize the benefits of supporting this generation’s attempt at higher and more quality education.
All around Vermont, students and their supporters are speaking out against this injustice. Vermont is 48th in state support, 50th in federal aid and the message at Tuesday’s rally was clear; we the constituents require attention, support, and priority.
And although even in the cold, the protestors maintained positivity, even joking about the situation in order to lighten the mood.
“I’ll owe a house by the end of this,” joked Dustin, a Johnson State freshman, “I’m not sure how nice it will be, and I don’t know the address, but I’ll owe them a house.”
According to the 2010 State Higher Education Finance Report, the current funding level of 17 percent was down sharply from 2001, when legislative appropriations accounted for 24 percent of the VSC’s budget. In 1980, approximately 50 percent of the VSC operating budget was derived from public funds.
One thing is clear; the steadily decreasing level of legislative support for the VSC system has correlated directly with ever escalating tuition.
“The results,” says James Dempsey, SGA President at Johnson, “are clear to anyone trying to pay for a public college education in Vermont – ever mounting debt.”
And while this is not an issue to be solved overnight, it is one that is in need of dire attention, support, and more now than ever, action.
– Megan Harris