UVM announces tuition freeze

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Students at the University of Vermont will not be paying more this coming year as part of a tuition freeze.

Talk to students on any college campus, including the University of Vermont, and you'll hear a common concern -- student debt. But these students are getting some help from their university in what it calls a historic move.

"This is a historic initiative -- other than a single time over 40 years ago, UVM has not frozen tuition in recent history," said UVM president Suresh Garimella Thursday.

In-state right now pay about $16,392. Out-of-staters pay $41,280. When housing and other expenses are added on, that adds about $20,000 to the bill. Garimella says expecting students to pay more each year isn't sustainable. "We must do better," he said.

UVM has raised tuition by about three percent a year for the past five years. Administration officials say that if they had done that again, they would have brought in about upwards of $8 million.

President Garimella said they would not fill the financial hole with layoffs. "This historic initiative is not built on the backs of our employees," he said.

Instead, the university would tap other sources of income like growing non-traditional enrollments, using its campus more in the summer, accepting more transfer students, increasing student retention, and tapping its donor base.

Despite being a public university UVM relies heavily on tuition -- mostly from out-of-state students. When asked if the school would ask the state for more money, Garimella said lawmakers can decide if they want to step in.

"Let's see who all steps up to the plate and are able to help us out. We'll need all the help we can get," he said.

Students we spoke with say it's a good start. "I was happy about it. It's good. I can't imagine a reason why you would not be happy about it, or why a student would not be happy about it," said Gordon Johnson, a sophomore.

"That's, I guess, a step in the right direction as far as keeping things affordable for students. I think that we would all prefer to have a lower cost of tuition overall. But if things are staying the same instead of increasing, I guess that's better. I mean, if it's capped at a place where people are not going to be able to afford it and then it doesn't decrease ever from there, you know..." said sophomore Alessia Potovsky with a shrug.

"If it went down, I don't think anyone would complain about that by any means. It would help all of our student debts, it would definitely make a big difference," said Cameron Howe, a sophomore.

The tuition freeze isn't a done deal yet for students. The Board of Trustees still has to approve the proposal. They will set tuition in the spring.

One of the members of UVM's Board of Trustees is Governor Phil Scott. At his weekly press conference Thursday he said he would welcome news of a tuition freeze.

"I think it's realistic on the part of UVM if they're having these conversations," Scott said.

He said he welcomes attempts to make education more affordable and also said he thinks UVM's new president is doing a great job so far.