Businesses call for increase in college funding

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(Host) The Vermont Business Roundtable is calling on lawmakers to significantly increase funding for higher education over the next five years. The Roundtable comprises the chief executive officers from one-hundred of the state’s largest businesses.

In its new report, the Roundtable identified higher education as an important industry in the state — one that employs more than 10,000 people and contributes $1.7 billion to the Vermont economy. The report also calls for a 33 percent boost in state funding for higher education over the next five years — an increase of roughly $26 million. In each of the last two years, lawmakers have granted a 2 percent increase for higher education budgets.

Vermont State College Chancellor Robert Clarke says the increase is needed because many Vermonters are finding it difficult to afford to go to college:

(Clarke) “There are a number of problems that we are trying to address in the report. Higher education is viewed as not affordable by many people. Students are facing a high debt load as they graduate and that debt load is increasing as money is being moved from grants to loans. Too many students are not going to college or are going out of state to college.”

(Host) Governor Jim Douglas says he supports the recommendations of the report. But he says it will be difficult to meet the financial goals of the group — unless the state economy shows signs of a strong rebound in the near future.

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