JOHNSON, Vermont — The trustees of the Vermont State Colleges rejected a recommendation by a committee that it not increase tuition for Vermonters, voting Thursday to raise tuition by an average of 3 percent in the next academic year.
The 8-5 vote came shortly after the trustees voted against a proposal that would have kept tuition at current levels for Vermont undergraduates.
For trustee Jerry Diamond, freezing tuition would have sent a message to the Legislature.
"We go hat in hand every year begging for 1 percent or 2 percent and they're so far behind their obligation now that we've got to at least say to the state Legislature, 'you can't do this on the backs of the students and the parents,'" Diamond said during Thursday's meeting at Johnson State College.
But the argument for a freeze couldn't justify the cuts that would have been necessary to fill the hole, according to the trustees that voted to increase tuition. Heidi Pelletier, who also chairs the VSC Education Personnel and Student Life Committee, said it would have been irresponsible not to raise tuition and that the schools wouldn't be able to continue offering high quality programming if it had passed.
Trustee Martha O'Connor said she trusted the recommendations of the chancellor and college presidents who supported the increase.
"I honestly believe in their judgment," O'Connor said.
At Johnson State College, a 3-percent increase in tuition would raise rates around $288 per Vermont student, bringing the total annual tuition to about $9,600. Each institution will have a slightly different change and number based on their current costs.
By comparison, the University of Vermont, which is separate from the state colleges, charged $13,728 for in-state tuition this academic year.
A committee of the state college trustees last week recommended against raising tuition. Trustee Linda Milne advocated for a freeze to show parents and students that they could afford a college degree.
At the Vermont State Colleges, 53 percent of students are first generation college students and 83 percent are from Vermont.
Chancellor Timothy Donovan had recommended an average 3 percent tuition increase for the next two years. The board voted for that amount for one year so they could address issues raised by the trustees favoring a freeze.
Donovan also requested a 4 percent increase in state funding, more than last year's request because his office believes appropriations has not kept pace with growth. Dan Smith, director of community relations and public policy for VSC, described it as "what feels like an imbalance between our public mission and the support we receive."
The proposed 2015 budget from Gov. Peter Shumlin would provide about a 1 percent increase in funding. At the meeting, Dickinson said it was unlikely the budget would increase for VSC.
The Vermont State Colleges includes Castleton State College, Community College of Vermont, Johnson State College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College.