Vermont’s Economic Sustainability Is Tied to the Vermont State Colleges
Investment in the VSCS is critically important to the economic future of Vermont. Increasing access to higher education for Vermont high school graduates, especially given a declining population of younger working taxpayers, is vital to Vermont’s economic growth — and to the future social and cultural health of the state.
- Vermont Grossly Underfunds its State Colleges: Funding for Public Higher Education in Vermont (VSCS, UVM, VSAC) Decreased from 15% of the state budget in 1970 to 1.5% of the budget in 2020, dropping Vermont from a one-time high of 3rd nationally in per capita funding to 48th.
- Higher Education Is Typically 3rd Highest Item in US States’ General Fund Budgets: The average higher education funding from state budgets is 9% for the entire US. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/public-sector/future-of-public-higher-education-study.html
- Vermont Is Ranked Most Expensive in the Nation for Public College Tuition: https://www.collegetuitioncompare.com/state/
- VSCS Enrollment Declines Are Statistically More Closely Associated with High Tuition Than Demographics: Enrollments have also suffered from a lack of funding for program-specific advertising and program development, as well as program cuts. Source for first statement: Vermont State College System Headcount versus Tuition and Demographics, Greg Petrics, Math Professor, NVU.
- Demand Is NOT the Problem; High Tuition Rates and a Lack of State Support Are: “Uncompetitive tuition rates, the direct result of the lack of state funding, make the Vermont State Colleges unaffordable for many Vermonters.” Despite one of the country’s highest high school graduation rates, Vermont is 45th Nationally in Higher Education Continuation Rates for High School Graduates. The National Center of Higher Education Management Systems, 2016.
- Investment in the VSCS Has an Extraordinary Return on Investment: With a mere $11 million in state funding, NVU alone contributes $113M annually in economic activity to Northern Vermont (nearly 25% of Vermont’s population), an extraordinary 1,028% return on investment for the state. https://strong.northernvermont.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/NVU-Economic-Impact_2020.pdf
- VTC Randolph Is a Significant Economic Hub for Central Vermont: Corporate funding and workforce collaborations exist with large local companies (GW Plastics, LED Dynamics, KAD Models) and led to plans for large corporate hotel chain plans to build off I-89 in Randolph.
- Vermont’s State Colleges Are One of Vermont’s Primary Economic Engines: In fact, they are more beneficial than any of the state’s specific economic development programs. The colleges are the most significant agents for raising the level of opportunity, particularly in the most rural areas of the state where the campuses are located.
- The Fastest Growing Group of College Students Nationally Are 1st Generation/Low-Income: Postsecondary education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/public-sector/future-of-public-higher-education-study.html
- 83% of VSCS Students are Vermonters; Nearly 50% Are First Generation College Students. Communication with NVU Career Development Office
- Most VSCS Graduates Enter Vermont’s Workforce, Expanding State Tax Revenues: 2/3 of Vermont students attending institutions of higher education attend VSCS institutions. https://vermontbiz.com/news/2020/january/07/jeb-spaulding-investing-vermont%E2%80%99s-future
- VSCS Attracts Out-of-State Students, Growing the Population of Young, Working-Age Taxpayers: Many of Vermont’s young professionals in the workforce today moved here to attend the VSCS and stayed.
- Out-of-State Enrollment at NVU Is Steady Despite Declining In-State Population: This indicates that Vermont remains attractive to out-of-state students despite declining college-age students in New England. https://www.vsac.org/about/how-we-influence-policy The Vermont High School Class of 2012 Postsecondary Enrollment & Completion within Four Years of Graduation
- 100% of Vermont’s High Growth/High Wage Jobs Through 2028 Are Expected to Require Education Beyond High School: Increased access and affordability are necessary both for economic growth and to prepare Vermont’s workforce in ways that are becoming more necessary for our future prosperity and well-being. https://vermontbiz.com/news/2020/january/07/jeb-spaulding-investing-vermont%E2%80%99s-future.
- Vermont’s Corrections Budget is 1.6 Times the State Allocation for the VSCS: Vermont is currently spending over $45 Million annually to incarcerate 1400 inmates. Per the VSCS Impact Statement 2018-2019, the VSCS serves over 11,000 students including 9000 Vermonters on meager state funding of $29 Million annually. In excess of $32K annual state funding spent per inmate versus an average of $3,200 per Vermont student in the VSCS. The inverse correlation between higher levels of education attainment and incarceration rates is well documented. U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Special Report: Education and Correctional Populations, January 2003.
- Level of Education Attainment Is One of the Defining Markers of Income Inequality: Invest in Vermont’s economic future by investing in the VSCS to help raise the state’s level of income. http://nvedd.org/ResourcesData.html (NVEDD Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy)
- Lower Tuition Equals Affordability and Accessibility: According to former Chancellor Jeb Spaulding, if elected officials increase state funding colleges will be able to lower tuition rates, and Vermont students will be able to much better afford a college education. Also according to Spaulding, 40% of high school graduates in Vermont don’t pursue any kind of higher education, the lowest college continuation rates in New England. He stated this statistic is in part due to low state support for higher education, which “translates into the highest tuition in the country. And we’re seeing that that’s making it unaffordable for Vermonters to go on to post-secondary education at a time when it’s more critical than ever,” Spaulding said. https://www.vpr.org/post/vt-state-colleges-say-governor-lawmakers-need-nearly-double-funding-higher-ed#stream/0
Historical References (Same Issues, Different Era)
- Vermont Commission on Higher Education, 2009: “We believe that there needs to be a renewed recognition of the value of higher education, and that Vermont cannot afford to fall further behind our neighboring states or the rest of the nation in our support for our citizens. This Compact proposes THE SIXTY PERCENT SOLUTION to increase the percentage of Vermonters who have completed two-year or four-year college degrees from 42 to 60 percent by 2019. This Compact is built on a single premise: one of the most important measures of economic vitality in Vermont is the educational attainment of Vermonters. Indeed, few things are more important to establishing a strong and growing economy than the education and training of our workforce.” http://www.vermont-icolleges.org/commission-on-higher-education-funding.html
- Vermont Commission on Higher Education, 1999: In 1999 the Commission on Higher Education Funding created a compact reflecting the mutual goals of the state, students, and institutions of higher ed to support affordability and access to programs; sustainable core funding to maintain quality; effective workforce and training network; aligned K-16 and lifelong learning system; effective R&D, and more. It was signed by the governor, legislative leaders, and higher ed. Funding increased 5-7% until the end of 2003 when it dropped, despite the resigning of the compact by the new administration, to between 2-4% annually until 2009 when it became 0%. http://www.vermont-icolleges.org/commission-on-higher-education-funding.html History of The Commission on Higher Education Funding 1998-2008
- Vermont Commission on Higher Education, 2008; Vermont’s Public Investment in Higher Education Was among the Lowest in the Nation: Vermont ranked 49th in the nation in state appropriations per capita Higher education was identified as an important economic driver, a resource essential to the state’s success. “If we falter and lose our competitive advantage, we will see the resulting negative impacts in every region of the state.” http://www.vermont-icolleges.org/commission-on-higher-education-funding.html Higher Education: Vermont’s Economy Depends on It
- Higher Education is a Chief Economic Driver: The Vermont Higher Education Sector is critical to:
- 1. Economic security and mobility of individuals—the ticket to 21st century jobs.
- 2. Strong local and regional economies and communities.
- 3. National global competitiveness—a strategic imperative.
- “Families’ Economic Well-being is Improved by Increasing Educational Opportunities. An individual with a bachelor’s degree earns 62% more than a high school graduate, and pays twice as much in taxes. A person having no postsecondary education is 12 times likelier [sic] to be incarcerated than a college educated individual.” http://www.vermont-icolleges.org/commission-on-higher-education-funding.html Higher Education: Vermont’s Economy Depends on It
- Vermont Business Roundtable, 2008: “The Power of Investing in Higher Education. For both our present and our future prosperity, state investment in our human capital is the single most powerful strategy Vermont can adopt for our economy and our future. Significantly boosting state support for higher education will build our state’s ability to compete and move forward as a 21st century economy. Postponing these investments will push us in the opposite direction — toward the rear in the rigorous competition for prosperity in the global marketplace.” https://vtroundtable.org/news-publications/library/ Investing in State Support for Higher Education. The Vermont Business Roundtable Policy Brief, Spring 2008.
- Vermont Business Roundtable, 2010: “No single issue stood out so prominently in this year’s study as the state of the economy. In higher proportions than previously, Vermonters expressed a greater desire for job creation and were more persuaded than ever that economic growth contributes to an improved quality of life. The unemployed, native born Vermonters and those with less education and lower incomes were all impacted more significantly by economic events than other members of the sample and, as a group, gave lower ratings to most of the measures of well-being and life satisfaction.” Pulse of Vermont, Quality of Life Study 2010. https://vtroundtable.org/news-publications/library/
Vermont is uniquely positioned to emerge boldly from the COVID-19 Crisis by establishing initiatives to attract students, businesses, and families. Vermont is viewed as a safe place to go to college, raise a family, or start a business. Vermont still has caché in the eyes of out-of-state residents; the brand is appealing and has widespread recognition that must be capitalized upon now. For this to occur, the Legislature must prioritize funding the VSCS and return to funding levels consistent with the Vermont Statutes.
- Education and Training Levels for Emerging High Technology Jobs in Manufacturing, Research, Biotech, and Healthcare are Insufficient: The Northern Vermont Economic Development District (NVEDD) Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for 2016–2020 identified the following opportunities in their SWOT Analysis: Promotion of tourism, importing of workforce age youth, and increasing collaboration between schools, community, and business to identify skills to allow workforce in region to thrive. Obviously, the VSCS can play a significant role in this. http://nvedd.org/ResourcesData.html (NVEDD Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy)
- Taxation and Regulation of Marijuana: Revenue projections extend as high as $15-$25 million.
- New High-Income Tax Bracket and/or Partial Retraction of Recent Tax Cuts for the Wealthy: Marginal income tax rate increase of 1%-2% on Vermont’s highest income tax bracket (individuals earning over $200,000, and joint filers earning over $244,000) would, on its own, provide the state with sufficient revenue to double funding to the Vermont State Colleges.