State Sen. Anthony Pollina says Vermont's current level of higher education funding undermines the state's economy and culture. When the Legislature reconvenes in January, he'll propose allowing Vermont students to attend state college for the price of room and board. In exchange, the state would collect a small percentage of their annual income for at least a decade.
"The advantage is that you do away with the real barrier to attending college, which is the upfront tuition cost. Students don't have to borrow money, so they don't come out of college with a lot of debt. And when they do pay for their college, they're paying for it based on their income and their ability to pay which is the fairest way to do it," said Pollina, P/D-Washington County.
The proposal is based off a pilot program in Oregon.
Pollina says it may also push Vermont to help more. In 1980, Vermont used to subsidize about half the costs for in-state students. Now, that figure sits at about 20 percent.
"The key question is how we support the colleges until the money starts coming in from the students. We can do that through bonding or a number of ways we're going to look at this session," Pollina said.
"Definitely sounds like an exciting proposed piece of legislation and would help out my generation and the ones coming underneath us for sure," said Heather Pulver-Gaillard of Burlington.
"I think it would be a good idea," said Tyler Woods of Essex Junction. "I still have a little bit of my tuition from Norwich going on. It's a little under $20,000 left, but it's not too bad."
"I think it's an awesome idea. I've just dropped my third and last kid at college," said Wendy Everhart of South Burlington.
State College spokespeople and Pollina's colleagues in the Legislature say they're interested in any program to cut college costs, but need to see the dollars and cents before the measure earns their support.
Pollina says he still needs to work out some of the details for the proposed plan, including the rate and length of the income graduates pay, as well as how to handle dropouts. He also says the current payment options should remain open to those who feel that route provides a better deal.
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