Letter to the editor: Aid to Vermont students should extend beyond border

We are indeed fortunate to live in a state that offers an array of educational options for our students after they complete high school. Be it a certificate, a two-year or four-year degree, Vermont students have a myriad of opportunities as they contemplate post-secondary education in preparation for rewarding employment and a lifetime of work.
Education holds the power to transform lives as individuals look ahead to building a future. I served as an admission officer at Champlain College for 20 years and I am now the Post-Secondary Planning Coordinator at Middlebury Union High School. Over the course of my professional career I have learned that the most successful outcomes occur when students find the best educational match as determined by their personal interests, academic profile, and curriculum suited to their personal needs.
However, not all students are able to find the program that suits their aspirations or needs within the confines of the Green Mountain State. As students contemplate higher education and post-secondary options it is vital that they have access to options not only in Vermont, but across the country, in order to prepare themselves for a satisfying future. It is imperative that our elected officials in Montpelier recognize that it should be the choice of our Vermont students as to where they attend college. According to VSAC in 2016-17 a total of 649 students from Addison County received 1.04 million in Vermont State Grants; 34 percent of those students chose to study out of state and received $328,204 in state funding to pursue their educational goals.
One might ask why would a student opt to attend a college outside of Vermont when we have so many good options here? A valid question, but consider this: students often seek to broaden their horizons and experience a program that might not be available to them within our state. For example: veterinary medicine or associate degrees in heating and ventilating, cybersecurity and healthcare IT are not offered in Vermont. Students who live in border counties would, if this policy is put in place, no longer be able to take their Vermont State Grant across state lines, to attend, in often times, the closest educational institutional to their home. As a state, Vermont welcomes approximately 25,000 out-of-state students to our higher educational institutions each year. We’re fortunate to have them annually join our ranks, just as the other 49 states are lucky to have our students attend colleges and universities within their borders.
Portability of the Vermont State Grant is about equity for all students. To restrict funding of those who rely on the Vermont State Grant would be unfortunate. To take away the option of portability would mean the potential of larger debt burden and fewer low-income Vermont residents considering college options beyond our state. I urge residents of Addison County to reach out to their representatives and encourage them to consider the lasting ramifications of the restrictions of this legislation. Every single Vermont student deserves to attend the college or university of his or her choice. Equal access to education is the right of all students, regardless of their socioeconomic background.
Sarah G. Soule
Post-Secondary Planning Coordinator
Guidance Department

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