Many Vermont high school graduates don’t go on to college, meaning they aren’t getting the skills they need for good-paying jobs.
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is inviting high schoolers and their parents to two college fairs this month to help build a better pipeline to Vermont’s college system.
“Postsecondary education is more important than ever to get a decent-paying job,” he said.
Vermont is good at getting kids through secondary school, graduating 88 percent of students. But only 60 percent seek schooling beyond 12th grade.
“There are many jobs right now in Vermont that pay very good wages, but they are not being filled, as you know, and it’s because young people don’t have the skills,” said Sanders, who sits on the Senate Education Committee.
Students with a two-year degree earn $360,000 more in their lifetime than someone with a high school degree, and those who get a bachelor’s degree earn almost $1 million more, Sanders said.
The Vermont Student Assistance Corp. is helping to organize the college fairs.
The fairs are Saturday at Lyndon State College and Oct. 14 at Castleton University. They will bring financial aid information and representatives of colleges and certificate and apprentice programs to Vermont students and their parents.
Vermont Technical College President Patricia Moulton, told Sanders that even though 100 percent of VTC’s graduates get jobs and their salaries are pretty high, the school has empty seats.
Sanders thinks that is likely true across the state. “We have excellent colleges that graduate people who go out and get decent jobs, but we don’t have enough students. We need to figure out how to get kids into college and make the process a little bit easier,” he said.
The fairs begin at 10 a.m. Sanders will speak at each at 12:30 p.m.
Scott Giles, head of the Vermont Student Assistance Corp., said the events will help all students but especially those who will be the first in their families to attend college.
Sanders was a first-timer, and he remembers how difficult it was then to choose a college and find a way to pay for it.
One of the biggest benefits is just getting students onto a college campus where they can begin to imagine themselves attending, according to Giles.
“It is more powerful to talk to a real person than to look at the internet and see a brochure,” Giles said. “It is the same for parents, many of whom are anxious going into an environment they don’t know well.”
VSAC will have staff on hand to help students apply for financial aid.
The process of finding the right college and applying for financial help is complicated and intimidating, Sanders said.
“So what we have done is we brought together some 25 different organizations, including VSAC and others, who will explain to parents, right on the premises and start the process right there, filling out forms and finding out what is available for them,” he said.