Talk about a gift. Talk about an idea that should be emulated by others who have the means. Talk about a proposal that could make a life long difference to those involved, and to Vermont as a whole.

The gift, the idea, and the proposal come from the McClure Foundation, which recently announced that every graduating senior from high schools in Vermont is eligible for a free class at the Community College of Vermont and would have access to a college counselor, who could advise them on career choices, classes to take, etc.

If every senior took advantage of the offer the total would amount to about $5 million, which is in addition to $400,000 the McClure Foundation has pledged in an effort to make the pathways to higher education more affordable, and accessible. Much of that $400,000 also goes to CCV.

It’s notable that the foundation picked CCV as the model it wants to support. CCV is one part of the Vermont State College system that isn’t showing a loss and whose enrollment continues to grow. CCV also has a statewide system, a network that has a presence in almost every Vermont county.

But CCV is also expensive. It has the same problem other higher ed institutions in Vermont have, which is an abysmally low state funding level. That class the McClure Foundation is willing to pay for is roughly $1,000, which is not a small amount of money. Particularly for families affected by the pandemic, and students in low and middle income cohorts.

That’s one of the key parts of the gift. It comes at a time of greatest vulnerability. It comes at a time when it’s most important to keep the educational opportunities alive for those most likely to pause their educational needs. The gift also targets the demographic most important for tomorrow’s workplace, and for the vigor essential to the state’s economy.

It’s essential to remember that Vermont has one of the highest high school graduation rates in the nation — in excess of 90 percent. But we have one of the lowest rates of graduating seniors who go on to college. We’re almost dead last. For a state that prizes its reputation of educational excellence, we’re failing in that intersection between the classroom and the workplace. And we’re failing at a point in time where the workplace isn’t content with a high school diploma.

The McClure Foundation understands that and is arguably one of the most foresightful foundations in Vermont. It understands the most important cohort in our educational system is the 41 percent that elects not to further their high school education. Every five or ten percent that can be coaxed into furthering their education is five or ten percent that becomes more productive and less dependent on our social services network.

Potentially, that is a massive shift in productive resources.

The hope is that CCV and the McClure Foundation are able to get the word out. Social and traditional media platforms should be filled with the offer. Perhaps the McClure Foundation’s generous offer would be added to by others. Whatever the future, Vermonters owe them a thanks and the acknowledgement that their vision is one to be built upon.

by Emerson Lynn

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