MONTPELIER (AP) - A trustees' committee of the Vermont State Colleges is recommending that tuition remain at current levels for Vermont undergraduate students in the next academic year.
The full board is to take up the recommendation Feb. 20.
The chancellor of the state colleges, which includes Castleton State College, Community College of Vermont, Johnson State College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College, had recommended a 3 percent tuition hike over the next two years but the committee voted 4-2 on Wednesday against a hike.
Linda Milne, a member of the trustees' Finance and Facilities Committee, said she's become concerned about the message being sent to students who are the first in their family to go to college. At the Vermont State Colleges, 53 percent of students are first generation college students and most - 83 percent - are from Vermont.
"I'm concerned about increasing prices causing sticker shock. And I want to send a message to Vermont students that they can afford college, and I think an important way to do that is not to raise the tuition prices," she said.
Tuition has been rising faster than the incomes of many Vermont families, who also may be faced with rising property, town and city taxes, she said.
But Committee Chairwoman Martha O'Connor, who voted against the no-hike proposal and in favor of recommending the 3 percent increase, said she worries that programs might have to be cut to cover the costs.
"It's tough for people to pay ... I understand that, but we have to keep the quality of the Vermont State College system as high as it is now," she said.
Jerome Diamond, who voted to keep the tuition at the current level, said the state appropriation for the operation of the Vermont State Colleges has fallen to a "woefully low" level in recent years causing the state colleges to increase tuition every year.
"I want to be able to shift the burden from the student and back where it belongs to the state of Vermont. I know that there are limitations, that we don't have money for everything, but education and higher education is key," he said.
He and Milne said they were concerned about the number of high school graduates who do not go onto higher education in Vermont. While Vermont's high-school graduation rate is among the top in the country, only about 50 percent of graduates go on to college, and half of those complete their education in four years, officials said.
"I want to be able to say to the students of this state 'we want you to come to college. There may be some financial aid available, but this is going to be your tuition and it's not going up next year, period. Come to college. Start your higher education,'" he said.