MONTPELIER, Vt. – As the promise of a free degree from the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation in partnership with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) gains momentum, a record number of rising high school seniors are enrolling in CCV’s Early College program. Sponsored by the state, Early College allows Vermont high school seniors to complete their last year of high school and first year of college at the same time, earning free college credits that also count toward graduation from high school. The McClure Foundation’s Free Degree Promise offers a free CCV degree to students who complete Early College at CCV and continue for a second year.

As of Monday, enrollment in Early College for the 2023-2024 academic year had risen more than 50% as compared to the same date last year. Students from 70 Vermont high schools and technical centers are enrolled, and CCV is already seeing a marked increase in the percentage of students who are first-generation college students or who are eligible for Free and Reduced Lunch.

The McClure Foundation’s Promise covers tuition and fees after any federal and state financial aid and provides enhanced career and education advising as well as stipends to help with books, transportation, and other costs associated with going to college. Students in the Vermont high school classes of 2024-2026 are eligible.

CCV-Bennington student Portia Pratt completed Early College last year and is continuing at CCV under the McClure Free Degree Promise. “This gives me such a head start on everything,” said the Mt. Anthony Union High School graduate, who is pursuing a career as a funeral director. “Not a lot of people get to be in the position I’m in, and I know that, so I’m just really grateful,” she says of the opportunity to complete a degree at no cost. Pratt is taking classes this summer and will continue working toward her degree during the fall semester. “I’m really excited. I’m glad that I can still be taking classes and don’t have to worry about paying for it, because that’s usually my biggest stressor.”

“We’re thrilled that more Vermont students are on accelerated pathways to debt-free degrees,” says Carolyn Weir, executive director of the McClure Foundation. “We hope that means more young people being supported to stay in Vermont because they’re hopeful about their futures here and more young people with a credential that will connect them to a promising career.”

As an open-admissions college with 12 locations and robust online learning options, CCV serves students of diverse backgrounds across Vermont. Early College students benefit from personalized academic advising as they navigate the transition from high school to college and begin exploring career options. Free Degree Promise students can choose from CCV’s 11 associate degree programs, earning credits that transfer easily to four-year programs at Vermont State University, UVM, Champlain and other colleges and universities throughout Vermont and beyond.

Applications for Early College are being accepted until August 9th. To learn more and apply, visit

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