VSC chairman raps higher education priorities
By CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT
Vermont Public Radio | January 27,2014
In his budget proposal earlier this month, Gov. Peter Shumlin asked the Legislature to increase state funding to both the University of Vermont and the Vermont State Colleges system by 2 percent, beginning in January 2015. But the outgoing chairman of the VSC board of trustees says that’s not enough and that the increase is unfairly divided between UVM and the state colleges.
In his speech, Shumlin touted Vermont as a national leader in education, with the highest high school graduation rate in the country. And he said he wanted to help more low-income Vermonters attend college and get good jobs after graduation.
“Better education and training beyond high school means more of our kids will grow up ready for the high-skilled, well-paying jobs that our companies are creating,” Shumlin said.
But some question whether the colleges that help low-income Vermonters achieve that goal are being fairly funded. Gary Moore, of Bradford, has served on the Vermont State College board of trustees for more than 20 years and was named chairman in 2006. During that time, he says, he’s seen a growing disparity between the state funding that goes to the University of Vermont and the money that has to be divided among the state’s five state colleges.
“For at least 15 years that I can remember, maybe more, but at least 15 years, the Legislature has chosen to give us all the same percentage. So therefore every year the gap between UVM and the VSC gets larger. It’s just like giving every one of your employees the same percentage raise. The CEO is going to get a heck of a lot more money than the entry-level person, and each year that gap gets wider,” Moore said.
Moore said in-state students at state colleges are bearing the brunt of that trend. This fall, about 10,500 Vermonters enrolled in state colleges, in contrast to only about 4,700 in-state students at UVM. Yet if Shumlin’s proposal gains legislative approval, UVM will get an increase of $420,000, while the state colleges will have to divide about half that much money among them. Moore said lastyear’s 3 percent increase amounted to $345 per UVM student and $95 per state college student. Tuition has risen proportionately at state colleges as well as at UVM.
“There are two issues. One is they need to fund postsecondary education at a much higher level for both of us. But the other one is they need to bite the bullet in the way they give out the increases,” Moore said.
Moore has three postsecondary degrees—one from Lyndon State, one from Dartmouth and one from UVM. He said he is not trying to weaken the university—just strengthen the VSC. But after more than two decades on the VSC’s board, Moore said he will be stepping down when his term ends in 2015.
“And I really believe it’s time for new leadership, someone who maybe can do a better job at convincing the governor and the legislators just how important the VSC is to Vermont,” Moore said.
In March, he will be honored for his long service by the New England Board of Higher Education.