Plan allows high school seniors to attend college full-time

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced an early start college degree program for high school seniors during a news conference in Montpelier on Thursday. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Gov. Peter Shumlin announced an early start college degree program for high school seniors during a news conference in Montpelier on Thursday. Photo by John Herrick/VTDigger

Vermont high school students will have the chance to spend their senior year earning full-time credit at six Vermont colleges under a new plan announced Thursday.

Beginning next fall, seniors can apply to enroll at six colleges participating in the state’s early start degree program. Higher education officials representing the colleges joined Gov. Peter Shumlin at a news conference in Montpelier to announce the program.

Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, said the program offers a smooth transition from high school to college. He said this “pathway” might encourage more students to enroll in higher education degree programs.

“In this state, we have both an economic and civic imperative to create the opportunities that our youth needs to prosper in this world,” Donovan said. “In Vermont, we have a great high school graduation success, among the top in the country; we are last in New England in college continuation rates.”

There are about 7,000 graduating high school students in Vermont, education officials said. Fifty-one percent of those graduates seek degrees at higher education institutions and about half of those complete degrees in the next four years.

Institutions participating in the program include Burlington College, Castleton State College, Community College of Vermont, Johnson State College, Lyndon State College and Vermont Technical College.

Other colleges can sign onto the program at anytime. The University of Vermont is not participating in the program, though it offers a dual enrollment program that allows students to receive college credits while still in high school, education officials said.

The high school’s per-student cost would be accepted by the college as full tuition. Room and board is not covered. Officials said the per-student stipend equals about 87 percent of the colleges’ tuition cost.

Shumlin said the program allows students to shave a year of tuition off the cost of their degree.

“The money follows the student and it really gives the students the opportunity to get a year of college credit that they would not otherwise have covered by the current cost of public education,” Shumlin said.

He said the early start program is not an alternative to funding state higher education.

“I don’t see it as an alternative to appropriating more money,” Shumlin said. “I think it is good, old Vermont creativity of recognizing that the money we have is in short supply, that we all need to be more innovative in achieving our goals of getting more high school students training beyond high school, understanding that there is not tons and tons of loot kicking around that none of us have discovered yet.”

Earlier this month, the American Federation of Teachers Vermont called for a major increase in state spending on higher education. The union recommended increasing state appropriations for state colleges and universities to 51 percent over 10 years. Currently, the state pays about 8 percent of University of Vermont’s tuition and 12 percent of VSC’s tuition.

The state faces a roughly $75 million budget gap, Shumlin said. He would not say whether the state will increase higher education funding next year.

Participating colleges have set program enrollment caps at 18 students for the first three years of the program, except for Community College of Vermont, which has no caps for its 12 sites, said Dan Smith, director of community relations and public policy at Vermont State Colleges.

Donovan said he expects about 240 students to enroll in the early start program.

Vermont Technical College already offers an early college program though its Vermont Academy of Science and Technology (VAST) program. This will be the model for the program, education officials said.

The early start option is the result of a dual enrollment and “flexible pathways,” or early start, legislation that lawmakers passed last year.

In the legislation, the college is reimbursed at 87 percent of the base education rate, which is the amount set by the Legislature and generates the funding for high schools, said Smith, of VSC, in an email Friday. In fiscal year 2014, it was $9,151, so colleges will receive $7,961 for each student enrolled, he said.

Smith said CCV’s tuition is fully covered because full-time tuition at CCV is less than the high school base education rate.

John Herrick

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  • Renée Carpenter

    Great idea! Perhaps after the first year, Vermont will expand this option to include HS juniors as well, and also allow students to choose part-time or full time class loads, so as to enable them either to work or intern without compromising GPA. Exciting prospect for Vermonters’ education!

  • Phyllis North

    So now the Education Fund is paying not just for K-12 education, but pre-K and first year of college also? School property tax rates will keep soaring, it appears.

    • Jacob Miller

      If you re-read the article Phyllis and your question will be answered. Or were you actually offering an opinion posed as a question?

  • Peter Everett

    Phyllis North:
    As long as you and I have a single penny in our pockets, Big Brother will be looking to spend it. As long as those who are in office now, remain there, we will be funding every whim they have.
    Want to stop this constant robbery? Vote them out of office. That is at BOTH the state and Federal levels. You vote for incumbents, you vote to lose yours & my hard earned money. The longer you keep them in office, the more empowered they feel. I hate to say this, but, they will be rightfully so, feeling this way.

  • Paul Lorenzini

    It’s cheaper to send them to college then keep them in high school.

  • Jim Christiansen

    Can I hold my child back in senior year for social reasons and get two years paid for? Sign me up!

  • Annette Smith

    This sounds like a great idea if it works from a financial perspective. I quit high school to go to college (and was fortunate to be accepted by a college without a high school diploma). During my first year in college I took the GED and passed, and then after I finished my first year of college, my high school gave me a diploma, so I have two high school diplomas.

    The senior year of high school I was facing was not engaging or challenging. I had only three requirements to fulfill to finish high school — physical education, senior English, and a course called Problems in American Democracy which most people acknowledged was a throwaway course, where the textbooks said that the labor unions were run by communists. Since I was already very active with swimming, biking, sailing and playing tennis, I didn’t need to attend high school physical education. I saw what my sister studied a year ahead of me in English class, and realized I could study Shakespeare in college instead (which I did).

    We are all different, and a program like this creates flexibility and challenges people who need to be challenged. Amusingly, sometime in the last 10 years, the Rutland Herald did a story that said that I am a high school drop-out. Technically, I did drop out of high school, but that’s not ever how I envisioned being portrayed. In this instance, students who complete their first year of college will receive their high school diploma and presumably won’t be labelled as dropouts.

    It’s not for everybody, but in my case going to college early was the right thing to do, and turned me from a bored student to being incredibly challenged.

  • Pete Novick

    The quality of education you get in high school largely depends on the academic quality of your peer group. If the person sitting in front of you has completed the assignment on tine, and the person to the left of you has done the same, there’s a good chance you have as well. Peer group outcomes are a critical determinant of individual outcomes. I say this as a parent who has put three children through high school and college.

    By permitting the best and brightest high school students to leave high school early, we unwittingly lower overall student achievement outcomes of those students left behind.

    This reminds me of the old backhanded comment: So and so moved from Vermont to (name another state) and thereby improved the median IQ of both places.

    Be careful of what you ask for, you just may get it.

    • Annette Smith

      Your comment reminded me that when I was in 7th or 8th grade, a new school was created in the city where I lived. We were all given IQ tests, and everyone who scored 140 or higher was offered a place in the new school. So what you are suggesting happened on a fairly large scale. I was one of the kids who stayed in the regular school. I can’t say that having the so-called smartest kids leave had any effect on the education the rest of us got. When I got to high school, some of those kids attended our classes, and some of us attended classes at their school. If I noticed anything about the quality of the kids who went to the special school, it is that they were more socially awkward. There were still plenty of smart kids left in our regular schools. The selection process may have been more about how well people test than about their relative intelligence. I ended up at Vassar College with some of those “smart” students. They didn’t seem to have an edge on the rest of us.

  • julie hansen

    How does this impact high schools that offer AP courses?

  • Lynn Nila

    Is this why my property tax has been adjusted for the increase “correction”? The early education “race-to-the-top” moniker really scares me. It describes the impending salaried positions for these people who believe they are performing brain surgery for future “wage earners” when it’s actually all about them– the teachers. It seems the only thing that is ever for sure is the theory of “practicing education”. You just keep trying different procedures that sell the product and the idea that this is the best way even though it ups the cost for those who are footing the bill (along with other costly necessities of life). The most disheartening thought about this is that educators have already decided that poor = stupid, so now kids will be made more aware of their financial differences and prospects even earlier in life. Great way to keep the populace in line by knowing their places in society while creating a new wave of unionized elitists.

  • Ed McFarren

    Not one mention of how the quality of teaching staff plays into success at the high school.level. Scared to face the obvious maybe.

  • Peter Everett

    Nothing is free in life. Somewhere along the line we will cough up the $$$ for this program. It will just be a matter of how much we all must pay. Again, the pols are reaching into the pockets of the taxpayer with absolutely no regards to the burden this may have on the average person. So glad that Granny, on a limited income, will be forced to pay for this, after she may have already done so for her children. This will be just another entitlement that the “chosen ones” feel they are entitled to at the cost to others.

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