Governor proposes new state/school relationship

Speaking at his fourth inaugural address last Thursday, Gov. Jim Douglas proposed dramatic changes to educational policy that would reshape both the state’s colleges and the University of Vermont.Gov. Douglas advocated a 20 percent increase in state funding to both early and higher education. Additionally, he raised the idea of integrating the Vermont state colleges with the University of Vermont.In what Gov. Douglas described as a “final step” for his proposed overhaul of the state’s long-standing educational model, he would seek the “marriage of resources” in fields ranging from “infrastructure to administration” and “programs to athletics.”Following the speech, UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel sent out an e-mail providing the University community with his comments along with a reaction from Board Chair Ian Boyce.”Challenging times demand creative and bold thinking,” Fogel said. “Governor Douglas’s proposals are worthy of careful examination and consideration.”Fogel said that it was “much too soon to even begin to speculate about the outcomes of the process to explore an integrated relationship with the VSC or the viability of Governor Douglas’s desire to invest additional resources in higher education.”In the e-mail sent by Boyce to the Board of Trustees, Boyce said that the board will be “constructive, cooperative, and open to the notion that a closer relationship between UVM and the Vermont State Colleges [VSC] could have positive outcomes for Vermont and its people, for public higher education and for UVM.”Douglas said he is seeking an increase in funding to higher education despite the rough economic times to “address spending disparities,” in reference to his earlier comments regarding the imbalances in state educational funding and the cost of higher education.”We spend relatively little on early education, are among the highest in the nation for primary and secondary education, and near the bottom for higher education,” Douglas said.Douglas expressed concern over the accessibility of higher education institutions, calling Vermont’s colleges and state university “among the most expensive in the nation” and “for too many Vermonters, simply out of reach.”The Princeton Review’s Web site lists the University of Vermont’s out-of-state enrollment rate at 65 percent. The University of New Hampshire’s out-of-state enrollment is listed at 45 percent on the Web site.