Gov. Peter Shumlin today congratulated lawmakers on approving the Vermont Strong Scholars Program, which will help families pay for college and provide more internship and workplace options for students. In combination with two other programs passed in the first half of the biennium that ended Saturday, the Governor noted that eligible Vermont students can now attend up to two years of college at a Vermont institution for free.
"Vermont families and students are struggling to afford higher education, and the programs that I proposed and the Legislature approved will help them reach that goal," Gov. Shumlin said at a news conference at the Vermont Student Assistance Corp. "Today young people need additional education beyond high school to get the best jobs. What we have accomplished with these programs ensures more Vermonters can afford that opportunity, particularly students who thought college was out of reach."
The Vermont Strong Scholars Program, in partnership with VSAC, will provide tuition loan forgiveness to graduates who stay to work in certain sectors in Vermont for employment. Lawmakers added $250,000 to expand internship opportunities, reflecting their commitment to connecting students with on-the-ground job experience and training, and creating links between potential graduates and Vermont employers.
The dual enrollment and early college programs, approved in 2013, create opportunities for high school students to attend college for free during their junior and senior years.
"We thank lawmakers and the Governor for making the Vermont Strong Scholars loan forgiveness program a reality," said Scott Giles, VSAC president and CEO. "At VSAC, we see Vermonters every day who know they need to continue their education after high school. The Vermont Strong Scholars program allows them to pursue their dreams and it is an investment in Vermont's future economy."
The Vermont Strong Scholars Program was part of a broader economic development bill, passed on Saturday, designed to attract, grow and retain jobs from small entrepreneurial ventures through large, high-tech companies that provide well-paying, skilled jobs for Vermonters.
"It made sense to include the college loan-forgiveness program, linked to employment in key areas of our economy, in the economic development bill," the Governor said. "Our top priority in this past biennium was to create jobs, attract and strengthen good businesses, and ensure Vermont students have the skills to fill those vacancies and the desire to make Vermont home."