CCV spotlights 1st-generation students with ‘Free Degree Promise’ event

Published: Nov. 8, 2023 at 6:09 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2023 at 1:56 PM EST
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WINOOSKI, Vt. (WCAX) - It’s National First-Generation Student Day -- something many Vermont students can relate to. Community College of Vermont’s Winooski campus Wednesday hosted its first “Free Degree Promise” event, where prospective students learned about options to earn an associate’s degree.

“My family is that of a lower, middle-class family. So, we didn’t really have that much, but we had enough to get by. Going through college, I knew it was going to be difficult for me,” said Chelsea Tatro, a first-generation college student from Essex enrolled in Vermont’s Free Degree Promise program.

The program is funded by the McClure Foundation and builds off of Vermont’s Early College Program, where high school students can earn college credits towards graduation and work towards a free associate degree from CCV. It covers tuition and fees after federal and state financial aid, as well as a living stipend and enhanced advising.

“I think I still would have gotten an education if the early college and the McClure Foundation didn’t exist, but it would have been so hard for me because I would be having to work a full-time job while going to college,” Tatro said.

More than 235 high school students have enrolled -- a 70% increase compared to its inaugural year last year. CCV President Joyce Judy says the program is essential for giving first-generation college students a head start. “How do we make sure companies in Vermont have the employees that they need. What’s so important is we need to help more and more Vermonters continuing their education, particularly for families and students who don’t have the supports and don’t know what it’s like to go to college,” she said.

The McClure Foundation’s Carolyn Weir says the program creates a platform for students to start their lives here. “We are hearing from young people that this Free Degree Promise is helping them imagine a future here in Vermont that they can create for themselves. CCV is seeing a 29% increase in early college completers who are continuing to stay enrolled near full-time,” she said

CCV officials say they are hoping to talk to state leaders to make sure the program can become permanent after it expires in three years.