Vermont Business Magazine Vermont Student Assistance Corp, joined by school guidance counselors, business leaders, parents and students, are calling on lawmakers to preserve the use of the Vermont State Grant at institutions of higher education outside Vermont. Legislation introduced in Montpelier would change a 50-year-old, time-honored policy that allows portability of the grants. If it is adopted, thousands of middle- and lower-income students and families will be denied access to educational opportunities they may no longer be able to afford. Others will pay more than they should for college if they choose to go out of state.
As amended and introduced by Senator Phil Baruth (D Chittenden), S257 would limit undergraduate students to a college "that operates primarily or exclusively in Vermont, or an institution in a state that has executed a reciprocity agreement with Vermont." Vermont is one of only two states that now has unrestricted portable state grant.
“At its core, this is an issue of fairness, equality and social justice for our kids,” said Scott Giles, VSAC president and CEO. “Many of these students have overcome tremendous odds to get where they are today, and it’s simply unacceptable for us to limit their opportunities, and indeed their potential, because they are from low-income families. These Vermonters are the next generation’s entrepreneurs, diplomats, and problem-solvers and it’s our responsibility to open doors for them. That’s what VSAC does. That’s what this grant does.
“These students are typically the first in their families to attend college and rely on the Vermont State Grant,” Giles said. “Some of the programs are not available at schools in Vermont. Without the grants, students will be forced to incur more debt or decide not to pursue college at all.”
According to VSAC, students receiving the Vermont State Grant choose non-Vermont institutions for many reasons. For some, particularly in the southern and border counties, the nearest institution is across state lines—some 25 to 50 miles or more. For others, the programs they seek are not available in Vermont. Others seek institutions that have higher graduation rates, offer specialized student services or arrange for co-ops and other work-based learning opportunities not available in Vermont. Some attend programs out of state—particularly in competitive fields like nursing—because they were not accepted into a Vermont program that meets their needs.
“I have lived my life as a “low-income” person and I am a first-generation college student with two parents who didn’t finish high school,” said Layla Rafaoui, a PhD student who grew up in Charlotte.
“I wouldn’t have been able to study in my area of interest nor would I have been able to get involved in the political activism of my fellow folks of color down South. My topic of study is deeply personal to me, as a biracial Arab-American, a woman from a Jewish mother and a Muslim father, and an advocate for long-term solutions to global religious and ethnic conflict. As an American Arab, I yearn to be understood and find a place for my voice; VSAC’s funding created that possibility.”
The 3,800 Vermonters who currently receive the Vermont State Grant to study out of state, receive, on average, $6,000 in benefits over 4 years.
VSAC is joined by hundreds of concerned parents, school guidance counselors, and business and community leaders to express opposition to this proposal.
Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters achieve their education and training goals after high school. VSAC serves students and their families in grades 7-12, as well as adults returning to school, by providing education and career planning services, need-based grants, scholarships and education loans. VSAC has awarded more than $600 million in grants and scholarships for Vermont students, and also administers Vermont’s 529 college savings plan. Share your VSAC story by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a video to YouTube. Find us at www.vsac.org or check in on Facebook and Twitter. #changing lives
Source: WINOOSKI (March 7, 2018) — VSAC