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Voices / Letters from readers

State higher education funding crisis: a federal problem that won’t be solved here

RE: “We need to preserve state colleges, not rashly shut them” [Viewpoint, Apr. 29]:

I appreciate Byron Stookey’s well-intentioned support for public higher education, but I feel the need to state the obvious: Yes, there was a recession in 1979-1980, but more importantly, Ronald Reagan was elected president.

As he began implementing the Republican agenda — attacking labor unions, cutting domestic spending while increasing military budgets, and shifting the tax burden from the wealthy to the working class — funding for the states declined.

This trend has continued unabated pretty much to the present, resulting in an impoverished working class and states that lack the revenue to adequately fund higher education.

I agree that closing state college facilities is an undesirable event, but the solution lies far outside the borders of Vermont. Implementing a federal wealth tax and insisting that the wealthy pay a fair share of income taxes would provide the resources to establish a public higher education system worthy of a First World country.

Vermont, however, cannot continue to fund these facilities in the face of demographic decline of the student population. Small, private colleges in all parts of the country are closing in the face of this reality as well.

As an advocate for affordable housing, Mr. Stookey is aware, I’m sure, that the reliance upon property taxes to fund K-12 education is one reason that home ownership in Vermont is out of reach of many full-time workers.

As a working-class residential homeowner, I have to say: If you want to keep these facilities open, you’ll have find the $25 million somewhere else.

Lawrence Sullivan

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Originally published in The Commons issue #562 (Wednesday, May 20, 2020). This story appeared on page B2.

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