MONTPELIER (AP) -- A bill up for debate in the Vermont House on Tuesday would end the in-state tuition break for University of Vermont graduate students.
Current law requires that Vermont resident students in all but the College of Medicine at UVM pay no more than 40 percent of the tuition charged to students from out-of-state.
Tuition and fees currently are a bit more than $7,000 per semester for an in-state graduate student taking 12 credits, and nearly $18,000 per semester for those from out-of-state.
The change, deep in a bill on miscellaneous changes and technical corrections to Vermont education law, was requested by UVM officials, said Reps. Michele Kupersmith and Johannan Leddy Donovan.
Cynthia Belliveau, dean of continuing and distance education at UVM, said the school needs more flexibility in the difference between in- and out-of-state tuition so it can market its online courses more competitively.
She said UVM will maintain the 40-percent rule for undergraduates, but online courses priced at 60 percent above in-state tuition are "pricing the new graduate and distance education courses we want to offer out of the market -- which is highly competitive -- for out-of-state students."
Belliveau added that the intent is "not to significantly increase in-state tuition. If anything the program will diminish the pressure to raise in-state tuition long term, by bringing new revenue to the university.
The Burlington campus has 1,357 non-medical graduate students, split about evenly between Vermont residents and out-of-staters. It is planning online courses in several subject areas, including electrical and mechanical engineering and health management, but in the online field "they’re really in competition with universities and colleges throughout the world," said Donovan, D-Burlington and chairwoman of the House Education Committee.
The current law says the so-called 40-percent rule will apply to all in-state students "except for those attending the college of medicine." The House bill says the discount would apply to Vermont resident students "except for those enrolled in the College of Medicine or in any other graduate program and students enrolled in distance education courses or programs."
Kupersmith, D-South Burlington and a member of the House Commerce Committee, said she wants to see UVM keep its graduate programs, particularly certificate programs that provide specific training sought by Vermont employers, affordable for Vermont residents.
"While I trust UVM’s assurances that this will be beneficial to Vermonters," abolishing the 40-percent rule "is a big change in the law and warrants further scrutiny," Kupersmith said.
"I will introduce an amendment tomorrow (Tuesday) that will meet the school’s immediate needs but will, at a minimum, require detailed reporting as to how this change will impact the cost of UVM for Vermonters," Kupersmith added.