Fighting the downsizing of education at the University of Vermont.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's Driving Up UVM Tuition?

Recently the administration told SGA officers that faculty salaries are the driving force behind their latest request for a 4.8% tuition hike - and they've told the faculty senate executive council that if trustees don't approve the request, "100 layoffs" will be the result (sound familiar?).

But the administration's own general fund budget tells a different story: Over the past five years, even as the number of students and the tuition they pay have grown, the share of the budget going to academics, academic support, and physical plant (i.e., faculty, the libraries, and the classrooms/dorms where students learn and live) has declined. While our peer institutions devote between 52 and 57% of their operating budgets to academics, UVM's share for academics has fallen to less than 48%. No wonder seats in classes with fewer than 40 students are hard to find while capacity in large lectures has mushroomed.

Where has the money gone? "Institutional Support" - that is, administration - has grown slightly. (Because of layoffs of much-needed clerical staff, how much growth there has been at the top isn't really captured here). And the share eaten up by "Debt Service" - that is, the Davis Center - has more the doubled.

We shouldn't face a Hobbesian choice between hiking tuition or facing further cuts to staff and faculty. The administration whose budget decisions have brought us to this place need now to make the hard choice of cutting back on their size and expense: No tuition hike; cut from the top.

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