Joint Fiscal Office forecasts fewer students, more retirees by 2030

A new report from the Joint Fiscal Office suggests that the student population in Vermont will continue to decline through 2030 while the retiree population will continue to rise.

The report suggests that school-age children ages 6 to 17 will decrease by 5.3 over the next decade, as a continuation of an ongoing trend that Vermont schools are losing students.

In 2017, Gov. Phil Scott highlighted that trend, noting that the state’s education system at one time was intended to serve120,000 students, yet has declined to around 80,000.

Wikimedia Commons/Jamain

VERMONT’S FUTURE: Vermont’s status as one of the oldest population states in the nation is going to accelerate over the next decade, according to new estimates from the Joint Fiscal Office.

The analysis also forecasts a “hollowing out” of adults in their peak earning years of ages 45-64, as well as a “significant increases in seniors in their traditional retirement years throughout the period,” meaning ages 65 and up.

According to one graph in the report, from 2015 to 2030 residents in their retirement years will increase up to 140 percent. However, by 2030 that spike will retrace sharply down to a net 80 percent gain over 2015. Those living their later years in life — age 86 and up — will total almost 24,000 by 2030, about double the 14,000 in 2015.

Vermont already has one of the oldest populations in the nation. As of 2017 the median age is 42.7 years old whereas the national median age is more than five years younger, at 38 years old.

State Rep. Francis “Topper” McFaun, R-Barre Town, ranking member of the House Committee on Human Services, said the demographic trend is bad news for certain government functions.

“With there being more older people, it will mean that services provided by human service agencies will be taxed more than they are now,” he said. “People, in terms of their health, in terms of their housing services, in terms of medical services especially, all of those human service activities increase with your age. So that will be a burden on state finances to provide support for those people, there’s no question about it.”

McFaun noted that nursing home and in-home care are very expensive options for families taking care of loved ones during their later years.

Not everyone agrees an increase in the elderly population is entirely negative. Mary Hayden, director of development and communications for the Central Vermont Council on Aging, sees a silver lining to an aging population.

“Media reports and policymakers often point to the perils brought on by our rapidly aging state — fewer younger workers to support elder Vermonters, downward pressures on state revenues, the looming labor shortage, the challenge of funding more services for aging Vermonters, etc. [But] many of these reports omit the opportunities gained from a healthy aging population that will live longer,” she told True North in an email.

Hayden said Vermonters today are working beyond traditional retirement years and will continue to contribute to federal and state income, including social security and other social programs.

She added that older people tend to be generous and serve in roles that aren’t always measured in conventional economics.

“Aging Vermonters have one of the highest volunteer rates in the country, contributing free services to our economic and social well-being,” Hayden said. “They contribute millions of hours in free caregiver services to their parents, spouses, partners and loved ones, saving billions in health care dollars. Many more are raising grandchildren who would otherwise languish in foster care at great expense to taxpayers.”

Monica White, director of operations for the Vermont Department of Disabilities, Aging & Independent Living (DAIL), said the state’s plan on aging serves as an important guide for how Vermont is responding to the various challenges that accompany the demographic shift.

“The demographic shift does include challenges over the next few years, including but not limited to workforce shortages, Alzheimer’s/dementia, chronic disease incidence, and funding and resource limitations,” she told True North. DAIL is committed to working together with Vermont’s strong network of valued community partners to capitalize on our state’s many strengths and build systemic resiliency to address the needs associated with our changing demographics.”

On the other end of the age spectrum is the shrinking younger crowd, which directly affects education costs. While the number of students and families participating in — and paying for –education keeps shrinking, the faculty levels being funded in Vermont schools have remained constant.

“We already have the facilities, we have a teaching staff and administrative staff in the schools and all kinds of support staff,” McFaun said. “So unless you cut down on staff, the problem with the cost of education is going to continue.”

He added that the other reason that costs keep rising is that even while some schools are able to keep spending per pupil down, others are continuously spending more, which “force other towns to pick up the slack.”

McFaun noted that high-spending schools nowadays can spend $15,000 to $20,000 per pupil, or more.

“As long as we keep doing that, you are not going to be able to stabilize the taxes,” he said.

Michael Bielawski is a reporter for True North Reports. Send him news tips at and follow him on Twitter @TrueNorthMikeB.

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/ProjectManhattan and Wikimedia Commons/Jamain

16 thoughts on “Joint Fiscal Office forecasts fewer students, more retirees by 2030

  1. The aging population of Vermont is the very reason that home health care workers must unionize.$12-$15 per hour with no retirement benefits just doesn’t cut it while teachers,cops,and fire are retiring rich people.If the economics of supply and demand really worked,why are health aids paid so very little.Aside from that they should be provided cars for travel.Cops don’t use their own cars,do they? I would say $25-$35 per hour with pension on par with other public servants and transportation to see the clients is the fair thing to do.

    • Sounds like they’re far too many health care workers. Sounds like supply and demand is doing exactly what it’ supposed to do.

      Every cop I know uses their own car for personal use. I don’t see any out of state cop cars in other states with a family dag and a bunch of kids in the back.

      • Do cops use their vehicles for work making traffic stops?
        Health care aids have to drive all over kingdom come for pennies per mi. using their own beat up cars because they can’t afford the new cars like cops,teachers,and firemen.

        • If they want to earn enough for new cars, they need to improve their skills and get better paying jobs. — Its the American way, which you appear to be against.

        • Of course not. Have you ever seen the sophisticated electronics in a modern day police car?

          Health care aids receive the same mileage reimbursement that federal law recommends. They get a nice income tax write off for that as well.

          Not sure why you hate on police officers that protect and serve so much???? Disheartening

  2. So we could have only one student in the entire state to educate, which would create a very high cost per student ratio even for Vermont, what would that be? 1.8 billion per student?

    Yet our cost to the tax payer would still increase! We probably still not be able to find the teachers retirement plan, we’d still have massive repairs needed within the school and we’d have to still build more new consolidation schools.

    Our one student would not have the most basic understanding of civics, that we are a constitutional republic, not a democracy. Our student would know how to protest. Our student would know all about every sexual position and fetish on the planet, but would not know he/she/ze is responsible for the care and well being of their child should miraculously become pregnant through the failed Planned parenthood advice which has resulted in 50% of all births in our state being unplanned.

    The toss up question is would this one student stay or leave Vermont?

    On one hand they will have housing provide for them, built to the highest costs of $523 per square. Foot, where by they will have only to pay 25% of their income should they only make $400 per month their expense will only be $100. They and their baby will be enrolled in all sorts of programs to assist them in their opiod addiction as it was the systemic and intersectional struggles that lead them to taking opiods. They will for ever be poor because they have fallen into the generational,poverty trap that Vermont has created and enriches themselves.

    Or will they mover out of state for high paying jobs ,low crime affordable secondary education and affordable home ownership?

    Perhaps we might need some adjustments in our focus?

  3. With student population declining while school budgets continue to rise and adult population increasing over the years, wonder who will be left to pay the ever rising taxes? No one of influence in Montpelier seems to care or totally out of touch with reality.

  4. Let’s see we have fewer students but the cost of education keeps rising, this is due to
    the greed of the NEA and it’s members….. the old adage ” It’s for the Kids ” …. pure BS.

    Year after year they produce substandard test results and the basics are not taught, they
    push there ” agenda-driven ” curriculum ……………………shameful.

    As far as the Stigma about ” Retirees ” most including myself are pretty well off as we have
    worked our entire lives saved, earned a pension and carry little or no debt, something the
    new generation might try !!

    As far as Vermont’s High tax base, they don’t have to worry because of the ” Old Retirees ”
    as they are moving to greener pastures, states with lower taxes on there retirement & pensions
    we have already paid once and we don’t like carrying the ” deadwood”.

    All that will be left in Vermont,are the Carpetbaggers…….. good luck with that.

  5. I know where we can find 1000-1300 Vermont residents a year. Call the main OR at uvmmc or PP
    That would help population nicely.

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