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State Colleges Struggle in Vermont as Enrollment Declines

Fewer students in Vermont are attending the state's colleges, which have led to financial shortfalls and staff cuts, according to a recent article by the Barre Montpelier Times Argus.

Although Vermont has one of the highest graduation rates in the nation, with 88 percent of students graduating in 4 years, fewer than 60 percent of graduates attend college. In-state students make up about 70 percent of the student population at Vermont's state college system, and the majority of the college system's revenue comes from tuition, according to the article.

Vermont has more rural students in its public schools than any other state, which can contribute to challenges in college enrollment. Nearly 60 percent of the state's students attend rural schools. Nationwide, rural students are less likely to attend college than their non-rural peers, and those who do attend college are more likely to attend a two-year institution.  

Other state colleges and universities have dealt with similar declines. In Illinois, the state's flagship university has struggled to enroll rural students in recent years. University officials have cited rising tuition rates and the "intimidation" of moving from a rural community to a large college town as possible factors.

To mitigate the effects of a shrinking enrollment, officials for Vermont's college system have allowed some high school students to earn college credit while still in high school, in hopes that those students will continue on to college. The system has also cut staff members, established a lab fee for students, and received approval from trustees to take out a $2.4 million loan.   

CORRECTION: The original version of this blog cited the Barre Montpelier's Times Argus, which reported that one-third of Vermont graduates attend college. The statistic varies depending on the student cohort and time post-graduation. One report found that 45 percent of Vermont graduates attend college immediately after high school, while state data says that within 16 months of graduation, nearly 60 percent of graduates enroll in postsecondary education.

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