Originally published in the Times Argus on November 28, 2020, as part of their “Vermont by Degrees” series.

Since 1970, the Community College of Vermont has taken an innovative approach to higher education. When CCV was founded fifty years ago, it was seen as a bold experiment. We offered Vermonters a new way of accessing a college education: at academic centers in their local communities, and with faculty who are working professionals in their fields of expertise.

This year, our ability to stay innovative, responsive, and adaptive has been put to the test. Our traditions have served us well. We remain focused on access. We continue to bring an affordable, high-quality education to Vermonters where they live. We remain committed to putting students first.

The CCV learning community is diverse. It includes high school students getting a jump start on their college education, recent high school graduates looking for a smart way to begin a bachelor’s degree, veterans and military personnel, single parents seeking a new credential to earn a long-awaited promotion, and working adults looking to upskill and advance their careers. Our students have different backgrounds, motivations, and needs, but they share a desire to invest in themselves and invest in their future. This remains true in spite of the many uncertainties presented by COVID-19.

This fall, the number of recent high school graduates enrolled at CCV is roughly double that of previous years, thanks in part to a generous gift from the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation of one free CCV course for all members of the Vermont high school class of 2020. As students left their high schools amid so many unknowns, the McClure Foundation wanted them to have access to CCV’s supportive advising and college and career resources.

Also this fall, close to 500 Vermonters are taking advantage of free CCV classes through the Coronavirus Relief Fund workforce initiative, a $2.3 million allocation from the Vermont Legislature that is providing free classes and training at the Vermont State Colleges for Vermonters whose employment has been impacted by COVID-19. With support from the Governor and the Department of Labor, this program was designed to help Vermonters gain new skills and boost their job prospects.

As we look ahead to spring and beyond, CCV is making changes that give students more flexibility and that offer a return on their investment sooner. We strive to be responsive to the quickly evolving needs of both students and employers, and to provide Vermonters with a variety of ways to access education and prepare for the future.

CCV has been a leader in online education for close to 25 years, and we are prepared to continue offering a high-quality academic experience in a remote setting. We have diversified our course delivery models, which now include flexible, synchronous, and accelerated options. We are developing more short-term credentials that easily build toward certificates and degrees in high-demand fields such as manufacturing, child care, and IT. We continue to work closely with businesses throughout the state to ensure that CCV programs are aligned with employer needs.

Next year, we’re proud to be offering four of seven ‘best bet’ college and career training programs as identified by the J. Warren and Lois McClure Foundation. These CCV programs in graphic design, bookkeeping, IT, and manufacturing lead to a credential, and a chance to land a promising job, within 18 months. And beginning next spring, up to 40 Vermonters in each program will be eligible for $1,000 scholarships through the Vermont Community Foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.

Throughout this uncertain time, CCV has kept alive a 50-year tradition. We will continue to take an innovative approach as we respond to the changing needs of our state. We look forward to the next 50 years of providing access to higher education that Vermonters can count on.

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