MONTPELIER -- Gov. Peter Shumlin on Thursday unveiled a plan to get more Vermont students into college and better prepared for jobs by expanding a program that allows them to take college-level courses in high school.
The proposal would expand the dual enrollment program to allow more high school juniors and seniors to attend college classes, for free. Students would be able to attend up to two classes at the Vermont State Colleges, the University of Vermont, and participating private institutions.
"We think this is a great opportunity to be able to take students who currently aren't getting beyond high school or who are having trouble affording college which is our biggest challenge right now facing Vermont's college-bound students and give them the opportunity to get up to a year of college credit while they're in high school," Shumlin said. "Now that's a huge development."
The courses would cost $150 if taken at the high school and $350 if taught at the college and would be financed by $800,000 in state funding over two years. After that the state would cover half the cost, with the high schools covering the rest.
The proposal is part of a package the governor has proposed and a coalition of education officials, colleges and business leaders support. The plan aims to ensure all Vermont children have access to quality education including programs in science, technology, engineering and math, and opportunities to go to college and get job training, the governor said.
About 600 high school juniors and seniors and 300 technical center students across the state are taking college courses, said Tim Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges.
That's about 1 in 7 high school seniors, he said.
The opportunity has had an extraordinary impact not just on the kids who are already planning to go to college but to those who are wavering, he said.
The goal of the latest proposal is to make the program available to more kids.
"It will make higher education more affordable for Vermont students at a very early age; it will knock down those financial barriers for access to success for our students in our Vermont colleges and universities and importantly it will advance and encourage students to graduate on time, which, of course, has a financial as well as an academic impact," said UVM president Thomas Sullivan.