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Vermont State College Seeks to Increase Completion Rate

WATERBURY, Vt.  ― Fewer than half of Vermont’s high school graduates go on to get college degrees, and the Vermont State College system is trying to find ways to change that and make sure those who do go on to college complete it.

Vermont State College delegates and some legislators attended a conference in Minneapolis last week that looked at ways to revamp the remedial classes many students must take before taking courses for credit, Vermont Public Radio reported.

“There are thousands of Vermont students that are going to graduate from high school that do not plan to go to college. That’s dangerous for the future of this state. It’s dangerous for the economic prospects of those individual students,” said Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of the five-institution system, which has a combined enrollment of about 12,000 students.

Bruce Vandel, vice president of the national organization Complete College America that hosted the conference, said that nationally college completion rates can fall below 20 percent for low-income students required to take remedial courses.

“If indeed remediation is supposed to be sort of a bridge to a post-secondary credential, it’s not functioning that way. And frankly it’s more of a barrier,” Vandal said.

If state colleges allow students to earn college credit while they are taking remedial coursework, then they are more likely to earn a degree, which could also help the school stay financially strong, he said.

High tuition rates at state colleges in Vermont are also an obstacle for students, Spaulding said. The state ranks near the bottom nationally for state support for higher education.

A way to improve that, he said, is to recalibrate the formula used to allocate public dollars by creating a relationship between the number of degrees given to Vermonters and the amount of funding from the state, Spaulding said.

Vermont State College has applied for a $50,000 grant from the Lumina Foundation to aid its recruitment efforts.

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