Higher ed rally shows VSC funding affects whole state

Around 75 students from Vermont colleges and high schools, legislators, state officials and involved citizens recently participated in a press conference at the Vermont State House concerning the funding of higher education.

The press conference, advertised as a rally, was held in the Cedar Creek Room at the Vermont State House Thursday, April 18. This event was organized by the Vermont State College Student Association (VSCSA), specifically by student leaders from each of the five institutions, Johnson State College, Castleton State College, Lyndon State College, Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont. Leaders were responsible for coordinating speakers and topics for discussion during the conference.

Last year the VSCSA higher education rally focused on individual debt, with students walking around with their monetary amount of debt inscribed on their t-shirts. Colin Santee, vice president of Johnson State College’s Student Government Association, explained that this year the VSCA decided to go a different route, changing the focus from the individual student with crippling debt loads to the entire state. “We wanted to show how VSC funding is an issue that affects everybody in our state rather than just students,” said Santee. “Vermont continues to experience shortfalls in the budget each year, so asking for increased funding from a shrinking pot isn’t easy. We are working on tying the issue of higher education funding together with other issues like keeping the youth in state, or increasing the amount of high paying jobs.”

Speakers at the conference included: VTC students who spoke about their experiences with the higher education system in Vermont; JSC alumni; Senators Anthony Pollina and Rich Westman, who shared their opinions on why the work the VSCSA is doing is so important; Harper Gay, a representative from the office of United States Senator Bernie Sanders; Santee; and Shane Bouthillette, president of JSC’s SGA, who relayed the importance of higher education funding and why it should be regarded as a state-wide concern.

Santee says that while attendance was not as great as last year, the speakers were well received and that they effectively relayed the message of how higher education concerns not only students, but all Vermonters.

“I am very happy with how the event turned out, and I look forward to utilizing my role as VSC Student Association Vice President to expand our group’s efforts into the future,” said Santee. “It was nice to have high school students in attendance, as they are the ones who will be fighting for this cause in years to come. Post-secondary education is the new gold-standard in our nation for economic development and if Vermont wants to compete, then we must continue investing in our future and in our youth. I look forward to working with the VSC Board of Trustees on Governor Shumlin’s goal of making Vermont the nation’s best in education.”