Letter: Keep ‘portability’ for Vermont State Grants by Carolyn Kehler

in Letter to the Editor by

For over 50 years students from Hazen and Craftsbury Academy, who are pursuing education beyond high school, have been able to spend their state-funded grants and scholarships without any restrictions. This issue is called portability.

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Under consideration in the Vermont legislature are H.114 and S.257, which would change the half-century policy of portability.

I support portability.

First, a student may want to enroll in a program that is not offered in Vermont. Veterinary medicine and cybersecurity are examples.

For example, if a student wishes to attend a college or training program not in Vermont, portability allows them to use their state-funded grants and scholarships to help pay for it. If either of these bills passes as written, this flexibility and freedom of choice for students will disappear.

I support portability for several reasons. First, a student may want to enroll in a program of study that is not offered by any college or university here in Vermont. I believe a Vermont student should have the right to pursue any curriculum in any state and have the right to apply their state funded grants and scholarships to pay for it.

Second, many Vermont students live along the New York, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire borders. They may want to attend postsecondary institutions in these states because they are closer to home. Eliminating portability will place an additional financial burden on them.

Opponents of portability argue it is time to keep high school students in state. In fact, less than 4,000 Vermont students elect to leave Vermont for other states while 25,000 out-of-state students come to Vermont every year to go to college.

Vermont state grants and scholarships are very important for low- and lower-middle income students, especially those who are first generation. The goal is to provide these students with the same academic and training opportunities as those with greater financial means. State grant portability makes a bold statement in favor of funding financially needy students as an important economic opportunity equalizer. Restricting portability means restricting opportunity. It separates the career potential of students into the haves and have nots.

If we lose portability, Vermont students not only lose but Vermont loses financially in the long run as well because we lose the goal of equity for all students,

I urge you to learn more about the benefits of portability. There is still time to stop this proposed legislation and protect your and other Vermonters’ right to use the Vermont State Grant at a school of their choosing, not one selected for them by the Legislature. But you must act now.

Call your local legislators to express your opinion. You can find your local legislators and obtain their contact information by going to https://legislature.vermont.gov/people/search/2018.

Carolyn Kehler served in the Vermont House of Representatives from 1993-2000, representing Barnard, Hartford and Pomfret. She is a former high school teacher and a past trustee of the University of Vermont. She lives in Greensboro.