In May of 2014, Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Act 148 establishing a committee responsible for generating a plan to restore funding for higher education in Vermont.
One of the goals was to lower student and family costs so that Vermont State College students and private Vermont university students could receive a college education without breaking the bank.
Linda Olson, Castleton professor, president of the VSC Faculty Federation and member of the committee, described the policy proposal titled: Reclaiming the Promise for Affordable Education in Vermont.
“What we attempted to do in our proposal was to create revenue sources that would not strain the state economy,” she said.
The committee consisted of faculty, staff and students representing various Vermont education institutions. One idea outlined was the use of lottery and legalized marijuana tax subsidies – if marijuana were to be legalized for recreational use.
This was one idea that had dissenting opinions from the committee. It is estimated that assuming non-medicinal marijuana was legalized, the taxes would provide an additional $12 million for higher education by the year 2040.
However, some members of the committee spoke about the potentially negative stigma that could be associated with the use of gambling and drug money to provide education for Vermont students and families.
“I think it’s just inappropriate and I don’t think there would have been support for that from a broader community,” committee member Clarence Davis told VTDigger.org.
As of now, Vermont ranks 46th in government funding offered to post-secondary education students, but second nationally in the number of students it imports for the pursuit of an education.
Pot smoker or not-smoker, most students likely agree that generating revenue from marijuana legalization that can be distributed to college students would be welcomed.
“With tuition increasing every year, something has to be done to lower the cost for people that are trying to have access to an education,” said Castleton sophomore Aidan Ells-Payne.
Another goal outlined in Act 148 was to return to the 1980 level of state funding. In 1980 Vermont spent $7.78 per $1,000 of personal income spent on higher education. In 2013, that dropped to $3.38.
“I don’t see why it would be a negative thing to use tax revenue toward students in college. For the amount of debt you get in college, it shouldn’t matter if that money is coming from marijuana tax revenue or private loans,” said Castleton senior Liza Tarleton.