Today, the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation (McClure Foundation) is pleased to announce the McClure Free Degree Promise through the Early College Program at CCV for Vermont’s high school classes of 2023-2026. The McClure Foundation’s promise will cover tuition and fees after any federal and state financial aid, and provide enhanced career and education advising as well as stipends to help with books, transportation, and other costs associated with going to college.

The state’s Early College program allows Vermont high school seniors the option to complete their last year of high school and their first year of college at the same time, earning free college credits that also count toward graduation from high school.

The McClure Foundation’s promise builds on the Early College program at CCV to give students who continue the chance to earn an associate degree of their choosing the year after high school graduation, putting them on a fast track to a debt-free degree and a promising Vermont job. Members of the Vermont high school class of 2022 who are currently enrolled in Early College at CCV are also eligible.

“Young people deserve a degree they can count on and afford,” says Barbara Benedict, president of the McClure Foundation. “By guaranteeing this pathway through Early College to a free degree at CCV, we are telling Vermont’s young people we believe in them and we believe in their futures.”

Julia Light is participating in Early College during her senior year at Twinfield High School and encourages her peers to take advantage of the opportunity to get a jump start. “Take the free Early College year because it will help you in the long run. I know that Early College has helped me decide what I want to do, so that’s helped me a lot.” Light is completing a certificate in cybersecurity fundamentals during her Early College year, which she says will enable her to get started in her chosen career field while she pursues a bachelor’s degree.

CCV-Winooski Early College student OJ Daring says the Free Degree Promise could have a big impact. “Early College in and of itself can be really beneficial, and taking that a step further and allowing people to finish a degree would be really, really helpful for some people. To get those two years, and not be in debt, and get farther…it opens a lot of doors and opportunities if [students] are able to get an associate degree.”

As an open-admissions college with twelve 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. Young people interested in the Free Early Degree promise can choose from CCV’s 11 associate degree programs, earning credits that transfer easily to four-year programs within the Vermont State Colleges System as well as to UVM, Champlain and other colleges and universities throughout Vermont and beyond.

“This is an incredible gift to Vermonters,” said CCV President Joyce Judy. “The promise of an affordable college education is life-changing for students and a game-changer for the state as more Vermonters will have the education they need for the jobs that are available and being created. We are grateful to the McClure Foundation for their partnership in striving to make accessible postsecondary education a reality.” 

The McClure Foundation is an affiliate of the Vermont Community Foundation, which is also partnering in this promise by providing funding from the VT COVID-19 Response Fund to help CCV administer and evaluate the program. 

“For too long, the state of Vermont’s underfunding of public higher education has led to high tuition prices and the perception among many young Vermonters that they can’t afford college,” says Dan Smith, president and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation. “The responsibility to change that perception is on state policymakers. But at a time when young people are questioning their futures and when Vermont stands to benefit from their talent, we see an opportunity to provide hope.”

The McClure Foundation envisions a Vermont where college and career training contributes to greater equity and resilience. Its grants help make the education and training pathways to Vermont’s most promising jobs more visible, more accessible, and more affordable. 

To learn more about the Free Early Degree promise, visit ccv.edu/freedegree.

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