College finances reveal student divide


Lily Merriam, Staff Writer

When picking a college, finances were definitely a factor in senior Sophia Danison’s decision.

“I think I’ve been focused on being as little a financial burden on my family as possible,” Danison said. “I chose a school that offered me a good financial package and I’ve constantly held a job.”

Danison pays for school through her family’s small college fund, scholarships, an off-campus job at Speeder and Earl’s and work study in the Fleming Museum, she said.

For 2017-2018, the total cost of attending UVM for in-state students was $32,874, according to the Student Financial Services website.

Out-of-state students pay $56,920, the website states.

“I’ve been doing work study all four years and I also took an off-campus job … so this money supports my living expense,” Danison said.

But Danison says her experience working for her education has taught her a lot.

“They keep me responsible and more on top of my life. I can’t show up to work and do a good job if I’ve been out partying the night before, you know,” she said.

In addition to building character, her job has given her perspective on the socio-economic divide and lack of diversity on campus, Danison said.

UVM is appealing for its ‘Vermont’ activities, like skiing, adventure sports and “hippie culture,” she said. It attracts students from high income families who have the means to choose a school based on these interests.

For first-year Zach Harris, UVM was one of the most expensive options.

But the community development and applied economics program drew him to UVM.

“I just liked the idea of coming to Vermont,” Harris said.

Hamzah Elwazir, a first-year student from Texas, said his college education is completely paid for by his parents.

“My parents started saving when my older brother was born. It was important to them to send us to college debt-free,” he said. “It felt secure.”

“I can imagine the process of applying would have been more stressful [had this not been the case],” he said.

The average class of 2016 graduate in the U.S. has $37,172 in student loan debt, up 6 percent from last year, according to CNBC.

“I don’t want to know what my debt is until I actually have to start paying for it,” junior Kiley Moody said. “Keeps me stress-free, you know?”

Moody is an in-state transfer student who saved $20,000 by starting college at Johnson State College, a small public liberal arts college, he said.

But loan debt isn’t a concern for all students.

The University of Vermont Green & Gold Scholarship is awarded to the “academically strongest rising high school senior from Vermont,” according to student financial services.

The scholarship covers tuition for the entirety of the student’s undergraduate career, the website states.

Junior McKenna Black was valedictorian at People’s Academy in Morrisville and received the Green & Gold scholarship, she said.

“The scholarship is the primary way I am paying for school,” Black said.

Black had not specifically aimed for the scholarship while in high school, “but the further along I find myself in college, the more I appreciate it,” she said.

UVM awards grants and scholarships to 82% of students according to Marie Johnson, a student financial services administrator.

“Scholarships are typically awarded at the time of admission and utilized to attract students to support institutional goals. Grants are awarded to students with the greatest levels of financial need and support access to higher education,” Johnson said.

$104 million in financial aid was awarded in 2015-16, which assisted 81 percent of UVM students, according to the UVM Financial Services website.