Lowest tuition increase in 40 years approved by board of trustees

Linsday Freed, Staff Writer

The lowest tuition percentage increase since 1977 was passed by the board of trustees May 20.

In-state tuition will rise 2.7 percent, from $15,096 to $15,504, and out-of state tuition will rise 2.5 percent, from $38,180 to $39,120, for the 2017-2018 academic year, said trustee Soraiya Thura, who sits on the budget, finance and investment committee.

“President Sullivan has made it a priority for UVM to be both accessible and affordable for all students,” Thura said. “These extremely low increases are some of the commitments the University has made toward making that a reality.”

However, the University still needs to raise money to maintain its high-quality education programs, said Richard Cate, vice president of finance.

“It’s always a balance,” Cate said. “You’ll see us working very hard to keep to it down, but it may not be this low every time.”

The tuition increase was able to be lowered this year because more students have been enrolling at UVM. The University has also been putting an effort into minimizing costs, Cate said.

“We’re just  willing to make the real effort to keep tuition down, rather than trying to fit tuition to whatever the expenses are,” Cate said. “It really is about trying to constrain costs.”

SGA President Chris Petrillo said he is pleased with the administration’s work to help alleviate many of the increased costs associated with University operations each year.

“Evaluating appropriate and responsible spending for all offices at the University, including my own, is a crucial skill to have since students entrust the staff here with their tuition,” Petrillo said.

Sophomore Alex Tamburrino, an out-of-state student from Connecticut, said she hasn’t heard anything about Sullivan wanting to keep tuition down.

“He should probably make it a little more public if that’s what he actually plans to do,” Tamburrino said.

The state of Vermont was ranked as No. 2 for most expensive  in-state tuition and No. 1 for out-of-state tuition, according to a 2016 Urban Institute study.

“UVM is certainly on the higher end of public institutions,” Cate said. “That has to do with how we get one of the smallest amount of state appropriations in the country. Vermont’s a very small state and it can’t afford to do as much.”

The state ranks No. 48 in terms of appropriating money to its academic institutions: UVM received $43 million from the state in 2016, which only accounted for 6.6 percent of the University’s income, according to the UVM Office of Financial Analysis and Budgeting.

Tuition and student fees make up 52.6 percent of UVM’s revenue, according to FAB.

Despite this, UVM has managed to keep its annual tuition increases relatively low, especially when compared to similar institutions, Cate said.

The national average annual tuition increase for public universities for the past decade is 5.2 percent. UVM’s annual averages for the same time span are 4.3 percent for in-state tuition and 4.4 percent for out-of-state, according to the UVM Office of Institutional Research.

“We’re always conscious of trying to stay in that range and not migrate higher than our peers,” Cate said. “Our percent of increase over the last five years has been less than these other institutions.”

UVM also provides more aid to students than other comparable institutions, spending around $125 million on grants and scholarships, he said.

“Even though what we call the ‘sticker price’ is high, students are paying dramatically less than that because, on average, they’re getting quite a bit of financial aid,” Cate said.

Last year, the average amount of financial aid UVM awarded to students was $11,324, which is higher than the average of $8,384 for similar institutions, according to a May 20 press release.

As the cost to students increases, so does the amount of financial aid awarded by the University, Cate said.

“It’s almost done in spite of whatever the tuition increase is, but generally it’s a two-to-one ratio,” he said. “So, if we have a 2.5 percent increase in tuition, we’re likely to be increasing financial aid by 5 percent.”

Ninety percent of in-state students receive some type of financial aid, and 42 percent of in-state students attend UVM tuition-free because of scholarships, Thura said.

The financial aid department has put effort into making the University affordable for me,” said first-year Leah Sargent, an in-state student. “Tuition is insane for both in-state and out-of-state students, though.”