BURLINGTON — The Vermont congressional delegation announced Monday that Vermont Student Assistance Corp. will receive $2.8 million over six years to encourage more Vermont students to pursue higher education.
In a visit to Burlington High School, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said the Talent Search grant will ensure that more Vermonters earn a postsecondary degree or credential needed for their future careers.
Leahy, a leading member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, praised VSAC's leadership in opening doors to higher education.
"VSAC's impressive track record with the Talent Search program has meant that more Vermonters, every year, enhance their ability to successfully transition from high school to education and training programs needed for successful careers," Leahy said.
"I've led efforts in Congress to widen access to higher education by funding these programs, boosting Pell Grant funding and streamlining the FAFSA to provide more financial aid. The Talent Search program offers students and families the tools and information they need, and I'm proud to know that this program will receive such substantial federal support."
VSAC Talent Search is present in 40 middle and high schools and serves more than 1,000 students each year. Last year, 83 percent of Talent Search students continued their education after high school.
"This grant is great news for Vermont students and their aspirations to continue their education," said Scott Giles, VSAC president and CEO. "I thank Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch for their continued efforts to make higher education a reality for all Vermonters. Education and training after high school is the single-most important investment a person can make in his or her future. Access to higher education is an essential component of reversing income inequality and creating career opportunities that will last a lifetime."
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who serves on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said access to affordable higher education should be open to all regardless of background.
"We are living in a highly competitive, global economy. For us to succeed, we need the best educated workforce in the world. In my view, it's long past time for the richest nation in the world to make public colleges and universities tuition free. But we must also do everything we can to help low-income and first-generation students enroll in college. That is why I will continue to fight for programs like Talent Search that ensure all students – regardless of their background – can get a higher education."
Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) has championed efforts in the U.S. House to improve accessibility and affordability in higher education. His bipartisan leadership has resulted in making federal financial aid more accessible and providing opportunity to more Vermonters.
"Higher education is the gateway to America's middle class, and the Talent Search grant for VSAC means that we can help more students open the door to opportunity that education brings," Welch said.
Talent Search programs include academic skill-building, study skills, class advising and tutoring as needed. VSAC counselors also help students prepare for the SAT and ACT tests and test fees are waived for Talent Search students. Students receive information on career exploration, the college search and application assistance as well as in-depth financial aid information and help with submitting all aid forms. Students enrolled in the program also visit colleges and participate in summer programs.
Burlington High School has hosted the Talent Search program since 1969, said Principal Tracy Racicot. "BHS puts students' learning first, with an emphasis on academic excellence and intellectual curiosity. We want to see all students achieve at their highest levels and be curious, independent, motivated and socially responsible," Racicot said. "The Talent Search program allows students to discover their strengths and explore career paths and how to decide what to study and where."
Kujtim "Queet" Hashani, a senior, has been in the Talent Search program since middle school. He now plans to go to college next year to study business. "I don't know where I'd be. I don't know how I would do it. And I don't know who would've helped me if it weren't for Talent Search."
VSAC has been providing outreach services through the Talent Search grant since 1969. Talent Search is a U.S. Department of Education federally funded TRIO program. More than 300,000 students are enrolled in 459 Talent Search programs across the United States.
Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters achieve their education and training goals after high school. VSAC serves students and their families in grades 7-12, as well as adults returning to school, by providing education and career planning services, need-based grants, scholarships and education loans. VSAC has awarded more than $600 million in grants and scholarships for Vermont students, and also administers Vermont's 529 college savings plan. Find us at www.vsac.org or check in on Facebook and Twitter. #changing lives