Scott: Don’t close colleges or raise taxes. Legislature, innovate!

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STATEMENT: GOVERNOR PHIL SCOTT ON THE FUTURE OF THE VERMONT STATE COLLEGE SYSTEM

Montpelier, Vt. – Governor Phil Scott today issued the following statement:

“Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, Vermont State College trustees faced a difficult and unsustainable financial reality: A declining enrollment and systemwide overhead costs rising much faster than tuition and taxpayers can afford. The board has been signaling for years that the system is not financially sustainable. We’ve seen many private colleges across the country close for similar reasons. Now, accelerated by the economic impacts of the pandemic, we must have some difficult discussions about how to save the state college system. 

“It is important to note, the challenges our state colleges face are not unique to higher education. The fact is, we face similar structural problems in our preK-12 education system as well, but the state college system can’t rely on property taxes to cover its continuously rising costs.  

“From my perspective there are three fundamental paths to choose from:

  • Adopt the current plan; 
  • Ask already overburdened taxpayers to pour tens of millions more into the current system, knowing it is unsustainable; or
  • Seize this opportunity to save the state college system and use it to strengthen our entire education system, from cradle to career.

“To be clear, I don’t support adopting the current plan as proposed or asking taxpayers to bailout a system that is no longer financially viable. There is a far better, more positive path forward – including for the communities that rely on state college campuses to sustain their local economies – if we are creative and committed to the hard work ahead. 

“For this reason, I’m calling on the Legislature to begin work immediately on a statewide plan to rethink, reform and strengthen the education system in ways that are fair and equitable to every student, every community and every taxpayer.

“In fact, I believe it is possible for Vermont to emerge from this crisis on a path toward having the very best education system in the country, and ultimately, in the world.

“We all know change is not easy but there’s no doubt that difficult decisions will need to be made – because if we want to have the best education system, we cannot continue to do things the we have always done them. Out of this moment of deep concern, I believe we can rally and make changes that have profoundly positive impacts on our state’s entire education system.

“This is a significant challenge, and an opportunity with enormous potential for the future of our state and all 251 of its communities.”

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