Depending on when you read this, the Board of Trustees will vote or voted on a tuition increase for the Vermont State Colleges on Feb. 20. A trustees’ committee recommended that tuition stay the same on Feb. 13 in Montpelier. They voted the entire student body of the Vermont State Colleges into a hunger strike.
They didn’t do so out of any cruelty or confusion. The argument over VSC tuition increase is a clash of the best intentions.
Here’s the argument. Tim Donovan is the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges. Mr. Donovan has recommended a 3% tuition increase over the next two years.
Annual in-state tuition costs $9,312. A 3% increase will add $279.36.
A 3% increase would add about $200,000 for the colleges. I want to remind you about inflation. It exists. Nothing stays the same. Except our tuition, if this vote turns out the way it seems.
Jerome Diamond voted against the tuition increase. He said, “I want to shift the burden from the student and back to where it belongs to the state of Vermont. I know there are limitations, that we don’t have money for everything, but education and higher education is key.”
There is nothing about Mr. Diamond’s ideas that isn’t completely admirable. But there’s something that’s delusional. There’s a difference between optimism and idealism. The difference is reality. It would be ideal if not raising the tuition cost when the state colleges are in dire need of funding would inspire the State to action. Begging the State for more funding hasn’t inspired them at all. The idea that starving our students will force the State into action is just that, an idea, and not one produced by examining what’s happened so far.
Voting against the tuition increase for this reason is like not voting in the Presidential Election because one doesn’t approve of the system. It’s a great display of principle, but it’s a display no one will notice. It’s one less voice. It’s standing in the corner with one’s arms crossed while the other kids play.
It’s also completely understandable. There are no villains. But there is a choice with promised positive effects and a choice with none.