MONTPELIER — The Vermont State College system is looking at $1 million in job cuts as it faces possible declines in tuition revenue.
Last week, state officials said revenues were now projected to be 2 percent less than originally forecast, which has left state agencies and entities looking for ways to cut their budgets one month into the new fiscal year.
“We’ve had a request from the administration to report back on how we would absorb a 4-percent decrease in the FY 2015 appropriation,” said VSC Chancellor Tim Donovan. “There’s no way to do this without it affecting people’s jobs. There’s not much else left to pinch.”
A 4 percent cut to the college system’s $24.6 million appropriation would equal approximately $1 million.
“The only place you’ll find $1 million at this point is in people,” Donovan said.
The current appropriation is 0.5 percent more than the previous year’s — approximately $125,000, or $25,000 for each state college. But with a possible 4 percent reduction, Donovan said, “We’re being asked to respond to what is, in effect, a 3.5 percent cut in our appropriation for this year.”
When it comes to state support for its college system, Vermont ranks near the bottom. The state appropriation makes up approximately 18 percent of the VSC budget, with the vast majority of the remainder coming from tuition, which makes a possible decline in enrollment numbers all the more troubling.
With classes starting in 25 days — except for Community College of Vermont, which holds its first day of classes Sept. 2 — some colleges are looking at declines in enrollment.
Lyndon State College is looking at a 14 percent drop in new students, and a 3 percent drop overall, according to Provost Kellie Bean. At Vermont Technical College, non-nursing student enrollment is down 12 percent, according to interim President Dan Smith.
David Wolk, president of Castleton State College, said that after being “blessed” with incremental increases in students during the past decade, the college’s student population is projected to “plateau” during the upcoming school year.
Not all signs are pointing down.
At Johnson State College, students looking to live in dormitories are up by 20 percent, according to President Barbara Murphy.
At Community College of Vermont, where students often wait until the last moment to enroll, requests for applications are up 18 percent compared with this time last year, according to President Joyce Judy.
Having a comparatively lower state appropriation can make it difficult for Vermont’s state colleges to compete with other state colleges for out-of-state students, who pay a higher tuition rate than in-state students.
The state of Maine recently approved $170 million in bonds for capital projects at its state colleges. Plymouth State College and Keene State College — both in New Hampshire — can offer more aid to prospective students than Vermont’s state colleges can, Wolk said.
“With our out-of-state competition, it is clear we are getting beat on tuition,” Wolk said. “What we are seeing is the gradual privatization of higher education in Vermont. It really begs the question of what Vermont wants for its higher education system.”
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