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UVM President Proposes Tuition And Fees Freeze

Old Mill Building on the University  of Vermont campus
Pat Bradley/WAMC
Old Mill Building on the University of Vermont campus

The president of the University of Vermont announced this week he will ask the Board of Trustees to approve a plan to freeze tuition and other student costs in the next academic year.
Student loan debt is the second highest category of consumer debt in the U.S. just behind mortgages and higher than credit card debt.  Funding a college education, according to UVM President Suresh Garimella, is increasingly important to securing success but is also becoming too difficult for many families. He announced Monday he will present a proposal to the Board of Trustees to maintain a freeze on tuition at the public institution for a third year.  “I will recommend to the Board of Trustees a zero tuition increase for next year. No increase for undergraduate students, none for graduate students, no increase for in-state students and no increase for out-of-state students.  It is not prudent nor is it practical to expect students and families to absorb continually rising costs.”

In an effort to control such costs, Garimella’s proposal extends beyond tuition.  “The average increase in room and board over the past eight years has been 3.2% annually. For the first time in more than three decades there will be no increase in room or board. As a third component I will be recommending to the board that the comprehensive fee be reduced and that the previously approved increase of $140 for recreation and wellness be postponed.”

Room and board average just over $13,000 annually at the University of Vermont.  The college president said while freezing such fees is critical to help provide an affordable education, a fundraising initiative has also been launched focused on providing financial aid to students.  “The Student Opportunity Access and Recruitment campaign to raise $150 million in financial support for both undergraduate and graduate students. An especially important component of this initiative is the President’s Common Ground Scholarship. This scholarship will support underrepresented and underserved students. While our starting goal for this initiative is $150 million we’ve already raised $18 million.”

Garimella was quizzed on how the university, which already faces budget shortfalls, plans to compensate for the loss of revenues incurred by the proposed freezes.  “We get very little support from the state.  A majority of the staff have given back or have taken cuts of 5%. All senior leaders have taken a cut of not only that 5% but an additional voluntary 3.3% cut which means they’ve given up a month of their salary. I would hope that the faculty, who are represented, will also contribute.”

United Academics represents UVM faculty and bargaining over a contract is currently at an impasse. President Julie Roberts says while  they want to give students a break they also want to know how the budget gap will be filled.  “President Garimella a year ago when he made a similar announcement said that absolutely it would not be filled on the backs of employees. I didn’t hear that this time. And the staff did not voluntarily take a cut. The staff are not represented by a union and that cut of 5% was imposed. The administration did presumably take a voluntary cut. I do want to say though that the cut that they took first of all is less than what they’re asking of us and second of all they earn considerably more than we do.”

The proposal to freeze tuition and fees will be presented to the Board of Trustees in the spring.

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