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Democratic Candidates For Governor Share Plans To Make College More Affordable

Bob Kinzel
All three candidates have focused their attention on making college more affordable for Vermonters. Former Sen. Peter Galbraith has presented the most expensive and ambitious of the three plans.

Vermont's three Democratic gubernatorial candidates have unveiled plans to make college more affordable for thousands of Vermont students. And the candidates have very different approaches to deal with this issue.

Peter Galbraith

Former Windham County Sen. Peter Galbraith has offered the most ambitious and most expensive plan. He wants to provide free tuition at any of the Vermont State Colleges for students who have graduated from high school.

Galbraith says the proposal is needed because many students in the state college system need to take out large loans and a fair number of them graduate with at least a $40,000 debt. It's a prospect that Galbraith says discourages some students from getting a higher education degree.

"This would do more to make Vermont affordable for those for whom it is currently not affordable," said Galbriath. "Debt deters Vermonters from acquiring the educational skills they need for the jobs that our economy requires. And college debt is one reason that young Vermonters leave our state for jobs elsewhere."

Galbraith says the plan will affect roughly 8,000 students and will cost $29 million a year. He says he would pay for it by eliminating a number of tax credits for individuals and businesses.

"For too long we've had a public policy of rewarding the well off with tax breaks while depriving young Vermonters of the educational opportunities that change lives," Galbraith said. "My plan for free tuition for four years at the state colleges will change that."

Sue Minter

Former Transportation Secretary Sue Minter wants to provide Vermont students with two years of free tuition if they attend Vermont Technical College or the Community College of Vermont. In the final two years, students would pay half of their tuition costs.

Minter expects roughly a thousand students will benefit from her plan.

She says it's needed because too many Vermont high school graduates don't go on to college.

"Almost half of them will not continue after high school with furthering their education," said Minter, "and this is a really difficult problem that we must face because we know that two-thirds of the jobs require some kind of post-secondary education training."

Minter's plan would cost $12 million a year and it's paid for by imposing the state's corporate income tax on Vermont's largest banks and by increasing a franchise fee that banks pay. Minter says it's a fair way to raise the money.

"It is their investment in their future as well," Minter said. "When we know that Vermonters income earning power expands dramatically it means that they are going to have more investment in their banks and more opportunity for loans and the work that they do for Vermonters."

Matt Dunne

Former Windsor County Sen. Matt Dunne has a very different approach. Dunne would allow students to attend UVM or any of the state colleges tuition free if they agree to spend two years in the military, AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps.

He thinks it's important to link national service to free college tuition.

"You learn a tremendous amount from service, and all of the research that's out there shows that it then gives a lot more context and meaning to a degree that you receive," Dunne said.

Dunne isn't sure exactly how much his plan will cost and he doesn't have a specific revenue source to pay for it.

"We would find the money. As I learned in my time at the appropriations committee, if it's for the right thing we can find the resources," he explained.

The three candidates will face off in the Democratic primary on August 9.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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