Vt. State Colleges to give tuition break to returning Vermont natives

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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) A new effort is underway to bring students back to Vermont to help bend the state's demographic curve. A new policy called Welcome Home makes it easier for Vermont natives living out of state to come back and pay in-state tuition at any one of the four Vermont State Colleges.

The Vermont State College System is doing what it can to bring more students back to Vermont. "It's awesome, it's a great opportunity for us and we're very excited about it," said Vermont Tech President Patricia Moulton.

According to the Vermont Higher Education Council, 42,000 students were enrolled in Vermont colleges or universities last fall. Only 40-percent of students were from Vermont. The Welcome Home tuition policy is for Vermonters who graduated high school after 2015, left the state and are looking to come home. It applies to all four schools in the Vermont State College system.

"Our admissions people were hearing from folks who are interested, who are coming back to Vermont to get a college education, who were a little distressed that they'd have to be here and have to wait a whole year before they could get the in-state tuition-- having grown up here and gone to school," Moulton said.

The Welcome Home proposal now means those former students can take advantage of in-state tuition as soon as they move back. The initiative is a small step for the state. Officials say if they have a dozen students take advantage this fall -- it's a win. But VSC officials say there's a bigger goal. "2016 was the smallest number of births in Vermont since the Civil War. 2017 preliminary looks less then that," said VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding. "Vermont is facing a significant demographic challenge as all of northern New England is, and we wanted to do our part to welcome home Vermonters."

"I would definitely do that, because when I graduate here I do plan to go out of state, but knowing if I can pursue my education here in Vermont, because I do plan to come back I would definitely continue if it was a cheaper cost," said Rochelle Brown, a VTC junior from South Stratford.

The state wants to keep people like Brown in Vermont and encourage them to raise families here. Brown says students often leave the state after graduation, but end up coming back home. "I do think a majority of people who were born and raised in Vermont want to come back to Vermont at some point," she said.

Spaulding knows this initiative won't fix the state's demographic trend overnight but he says it's a start. "This by itself is not a silver bullet to deal with the challenges Governor Scott has laid out, but as he's also said, it's going to take a lot of little pieces and there are more and more of them that are starting to take hold," he said.

The tuition policy begins this fall semester.