The University of Vermont’s Board of Trustees voted on Oct. 27 to freeze current tuition rates for the fifth consecutive academic year. The trustees also approved freezing room and board fees for the fourth year in a row. According to Financial Services at UVM, the current annual tuition for undergraduates is $16,280 for in-state students and $41,280 for out-of-state students.
The tuition freeze initiative began in 2019 when UVM President Suresh Garimella advocated freezing tuition to keep the university accessible and affordable, benefitting in-state UVM students, as well as the two-thirds of its student body coming from out of state. The tuition freezes have allowed the classes of 2023 and 2024 to pay the same price for tuition since the year they arrived. In the decade prior to 2019, tuition increased at a rate of approximately 3% per year.
“Many families are struggling with inflation in today’s economy… It is more important than ever that we do all we can to help students and families afford a high-quality UVM education, and to keep our university accessible, affordable, and competitive,” Garimella said in a press release last month. Before Garimella became the university’s president, UVM had not frozen tuition fees in over 40 years.
In addition to freezing tuition, Garimella recently announced the UVM Promise: a program which guarantees full-tuition scholarships to dependent students from households in Vermont with yearly incomes up to $60,000. Beginning in fall 2023, the UVM Promise will cover four years of tuition for eligible incoming first-year students.
In its press release, UVM wrote “[Because of tuition freezes], the cumulative total savings for all students enrolled at UVM over the five academic years ending next year will exceed $163 million.”
Ashleigh Clark, a member of the UVM class of 2025 and UVM SGA senator, wrote in an email to The Campus that the tuition freezes are what ultimately made her decide to attend the university. “[The] tuition freeze alongside receiving a scholarship, the strain of attending college was lessened… [for] myself and my family,” Clark wrote.
Clark said she has seen the impacts of the tuition freezes firsthand, noting the record number of applicants to the university. The UVM Promise has encouraged more Vermont students to apply to UVM.
“The demand came from the drive to attract more in-state students, most students come from out of state, and other states even outnumber Vermonters,” Clark said. “While freezing tuition benefits all students, it’s a part of many initiatives trying to bring in more in-state students.”
In an email to The Campus, David Provost, Middlebury’s executive vice president for finance and administration, shared that, unlike private institutions in Vermont such as Middlebury, “state schools like UVM are eligible for state of Vermont support.” This past year, Vermont Governor Phil Scott approved an additional $10 million for UVM’s budget, making their annual appropriations $52.5 million in total. According to the university, approximately half of this budget is allocated to supporting students' financial needs.
Provost also explained some of the potential downsides to a tuition freeze. “[This approach] sometimes results in bigger tuition increases down the road… if your costs are increasing for student support, programming, faculty and staff salaries or inflationary factors on such things as energy, food costs, and other operating costs, you need a funding mechanism to cover those increases.” While UVM receives a large sum of money from the state, this appropriation only accounts for around 7% of its fall 2023 operating budget of $776 million.
“Alternatives to increasing the price for attendance are increasing fundraising efforts and building your endowment, increasing the number of students or cutting existing costs by layoffs,” Provost wrote.
Middlebury does not currently have plans to freeze tuition.
“Affordability is a primary focus for Middlebury as well. Middlebury meets 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all admitted students and provides grant aid to about half of the student body. For the Class of 2026, the average grant was $60,600,” Nicole Curvin, dean of Middlebury College Admissions wrote in an email to The Campus.
UVM said in June 2022 that the university currently offers full scholarships to 45% of its undergraduate students. While Middlebury does not offer as many full scholarships as UVM, the average grant offered by Middlebury is significantly higher, largely because the cost to attend is higher.
“Middlebury also partners with the Posse Foundation and Questbridge, a nonprofit that helps high-achieving, low-income high school seniors gain admission and a full four-year financial aid package to some of the nation’s most competitive colleges,” Curvin wrote. The Posse Foundation and Questbridge each partner with no more than 100 colleges, many of which are private. Currently, UVM is not partnered with either organization.