With growing consciousness surrounding the costs of higher education, students, faculty and staff from the Vermont State College systems converged on the Montpelier State House early Feb. 7.
The main issues being brought to light were the cost of higher education, the lack of state and federal support, and the changes that the legislatures needed to make.
Judging by the turn out—some 150 or more protestors—the issue is slowly gaining visibility.
Castleton State College Student Government Association President Stephanie Terry was among the many leaders present to speak about not only her own struggles, but also her fears for the future generation.
“I come from a family with four children. It’s not a family with money. One of my greatest fears is how my siblings will access higher education—more so, if they even will be able to get there,” she said the morning of the rally.
Other SGA president’s from the VSC system spoke out as well.
“If you think about tuition costs at Johnson, it’s about $8,500 a year and that’s $34,000 for a four-year education, just in tuition. You’re not talking about your room, your meal plan, your books, gas or groceries, or if you have a cell phone bill, if you’re paying your own health insurance,” Johnson State SGA President James Dempsey pointed out.
Dempsey also commiserated with staff and faculty of the VSC system, brining to light the issues of adjunct professors without health care, assurance of income, or office space.
Students weren’t shy about their issues either.
“I enrolled in VTC in South Burlington as part of the VAST program—one in which I could finish my high school diploma while starting my bachelors—I received no financial aid based on need,” said VTC student Kim Pearly.
“The way they determine expected family contribution isn’t accurate. Need aid is important but lowering college costs is a must…Expecting my family to foot the bill on my education is NOT acceptable, especially when it’s the time in their lives when they have to start planning for their futures too,” Pearly added.
Kristin Nolan, an out of state student at Castleton also feels the burden of her debt.
“I’ve only spent three years at Castleton and I’ve stayed as to not compromise my happiness. I love Vermont, I love Castleton, but I’ll pay for it,” Nolan said.
Despite the number of students, faculty and staff present, not all representatives were pleased by their presence. On at least two occasions there were whispers of, “Why are you here?” by representatives and secretaries alike.
One representative, Gary Gilbert of Fairfax and Georgia, has proposed a bill in hopes of aiding high school students in retaining their hard earned college credits, no matter which school they attend.
“With bill 668, I hope that any high school student who earned college credits in high school and scored at least a three on their AP exams will be able to not only keep these credits, but that colleges will be mandated to count these courses to their requirements, making their time spent at colleges more progress oriented,” said Gilbert hopefully.
With the alliance of VSC campuses, 67 House of Representatives signatures were collected in support of higher education. According to Terry, the message seemed to be heard by Governor Shumlin.