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2011 April 18 - 12:00 am

MONEY TREE: Vt. Students Call for More Funding for State Colleges

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Students from Vermont State Colleges took their message to the state capital on, calling for more funding for the five-college system.

More than 50 students, most from Lyndon State College, packed a Statehouse room, some telling members of the Senate and House education committees about cherished programs unique to Lyndon, as well as canceled classes and tuition and program increases that they say could hamper their education.

“I know that at the Statehouse right now to get funding, it’s like getting water out of a rock, very hard, and we respect that,” said John Kleinhans, student body president at Lyndon State. “But for every dollar put into the state college educational system, we believe that you’re going to get two dollars out of us.”

Others pointed to the possible economic benefits of investing in the colleges, because a majority of Vermonters who attend Vermont colleges — 76 percent, Kleinhans said — stick around afterward.

“Wouldn’t it be part of a good strong economic strategy to ensure the quality of the education of Vermont State Colleges and by rededicating to higher education, wouldn’t that help a strong economic plan going forward?” said Dan Haycook, a Lyndon State student.

The students want the state to do more for the state colleges, which include Castleton State, Johnson State, Lyndon State, Vermont Technical College and the Community College of Vermont.

The move comes after some students at Lyndon State held a sit-in about possible faculty cuts at that institution.

Lyndon is projecting about a $700,000 budget deficit in two years, said President Carole Moore.

To make that up, some of the cuts will likely come from academic and administrative departments, freezing those budgets, as well as paring back on travel and professional development, she said. Cuts to administrative staff and faculty are possible, she said.

“We’re so thinly staffed that it’s almost inconceivable to make any changes there but reality is reality,” she said.

Each college is having to cut back. VSC expects to get about 18 percent of its budget, or more than $24 million, from the state in 2012, which represents about a 9 percent decline in state funding, said VSC Chancellor Tim Donovan.

Vermont ranks 49th or 50th in the country for its funding for higher education, but college officials also recognize that that they won’t be getting a windfall of funding as the state grapples with a more than $175 million budget shortfall.

“These are extraordinary times that we’re living in and the colleges have to make adjustments, but these are healthy institutions that are serving this state incredibly well,” Donovan said.

Three of the state colleges had record enrollments this year, “because these colleges really represent the best value and the lowest priced higher education option in Vermont,” Donovan said. “We’re seeing Vermont families returning to looking at their state colleges as the best value.”

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