Did Vt. taxpayer dollars for dental training program pay off?

Published: Sep. 26, 2023 at 6:35 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - A new report from the Vermont auditor has found that $2 million in state funding used over the last seven years to create a dental therapy program at Vermont Technical College has yet to enroll a single student.

The program at VTC’s Williston campus was slated to be one of the first of its kind in the country and was designated to help with the shortage of dental workers.

The report found that college leaders have struggled to apply for and receive credentials for the program and design an approved curiculuum.

Auditor Doug Hoffer, D-Vt. says there’s a bigger lesson for state leaders to learn about making and tracking investments. “It’s important that we track the money, but that’s not the end of the conversation, thats the beginning of the conversation. The more important conversation is are these funds being used to achieve the goals intended by the Legislature in these programs, that’s what matters,” Hoffer said.

The vice president of business operations at Vermont State University says work to establish the program was slower than anticipated because of a combination of the pandemic, staff turnover, and challenges in hiring staff. They add that setting up and designing a program like this is complex but that they are committed to standing it up by 2027.

A Government Accountability Committee over the summer looked into better tracking state programs. Hoffer says he hopes it means lawmakers report on the performance and outcomes of any program they set up, despite the cost involved to do so.

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