Governor Phil Scott Details Higher Education Initiatives to Support Vermont Colleges, Universities and Students
Governor Phil Scott today detailed efforts to strengthen and expand higher education opportunities in Vermont, an important piece of the strategy to reverse the state’s aging demographic and workforce challenges.
“As we work to grow our workforce and help Vermonters move up in their careers, our higher education system - which includes traditional degree programs, as well as trades training - plays a critical role,” said Governor Scott. “Our state colleges and universities not only provide the education and training needed for our future workforce, they also offer an incredible opportunity to recruit and retain the Vermonters we need to reverse our population trends.”
According to the 2017 State of Higher Education in Vermont report, Vermont colleges and universities attracted more than 44,000 students a year and employed more than 11,000 Vermonters in 2015. More than half of the students were from out-of-state. An analysis by the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges recently showed that Vermont’s independent colleges alone contributed more than $2 billion annually to Vermont’s economy.
As part of the Fiscal Year 2020 budget, the Vermont State Colleges received a $2.5 million increase in their budget over 2019. Governor Scott reiterated this increase helps to make a Vermont State College education accessible to more Vermonters seeking both non-degree and degree programs.
“We appreciate the Governor’s recognition of the Vermont State Colleges System’s critical role in supporting Vermont’s workforce and economy,” said VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding. “Our colleges and universities provide education and training essential to Vermont employers and to the futures of our students.”
The budget also included a one-time increase of $500,000 for non-degree grants offered by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC). The Advancement Grant program will help nearly 300 Vermonters access higher education programs that don’t necessarily result in a two- or four-year degree – a growing market for Vermont higher education institutions.
“Increased funding in this program will create real opportunities for Vermonters who need education and training for jobs that are waiting to be filled,” said Scott Giles, president and CEO of VSAC. “We all hear from employers every day about open positions that can’t be filled. Many of those positions require the education and training the Advancement Grant program is providing right now. We thank the Governor and the Legislature for this commitment to a program that both grows our economy and helps working-age Vermonters achieve their career and education goals.”
During Wednesday’s news conference, Governor Scott also announced the inaugural winners of two $5,000 “Choose Vermont” Scholarships – a scholarship promotion designed to attract new first-year students who commit to attend Vermont colleges. The winners are Kelsey True of Old Saybrook, Connecticut who will attend the University of Vermont to study nursing and Brandon Ryan of Randolph, Vermont who will attend Castleton University to study political science.
“I chose to go to a college in Vermont because of the high quality of education,” said True. “UVM has one of the highest pass rates for the national nursing test out of all the schools I looked at, which means I will come out of school being able to compete in many hospitals. Being at a school in Vermont will allow me to get a top-grade education, while being able to do the outdoor activities I love all year round.”
“I chose Vermont because I wanted to be near my family and ultimately the affordability of Vermont higher education,” said Ryan. “College is very expensive and I’m glad that Vermont is trying to make upcoming college students’ lives easier.”
The Choose Vermont Scholarship program is a collaboration between the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges and the Vermont Higher Education Council. More than 1,400 new Vermont students entered the contest – roughly an equal number of Vermonters and non-residents. The Administration plans to run the contest again next spring, as well as expand cooperative marketing efforts with the colleges this fall.
“We’re undertaking a wholistic approach to solving Vermont’s worker shortage,” said ACCD Secretary Michael Schirling. “We must provide relevant and industry-demanded training to our native high school and college students, we need to attract more out-of-state college students to Vermont and retain those students in our workforce, and we must import new working-age adults to Vermont. Our colleges and universities play a key role nearly every step of the way.”
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Choose Vermont Scholarship Winners (Pictured Left to Right: VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding, Governor Phil Scott, VSAC's Tom Little, Brandon Ryan, Kelsey True, ACCD Deputy Secretary Ted Brady, Education Deputy Secretary Heather Bouchey, Sterling President Matthew Derr)