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Douglas pitches scholarship plan to keep Vermonters in Vermont

Vermont Governor Jim Douglas is sick of seeing Vermont young people leaving the state to go to college – and never coming back.”Statistics show that the vast majority of people stay within 100 miles of where they go to college when they start their working lives,” Douglas told a packed Herrick Auditorium on Feb. 16.

Douglas was on campus on campus to discuss his proposed Vermont Promise Scholarship program. If approved by the legislature, the 15-year, $175 million program will fund scholarships for Vermont residents with the goal of keeping them here after they graduate.

Under the plan, if students stay in Vermont for three years after college, they won’t have to repay the scholarship money., If they leave, they must repay half of the award.

It calls for Vermont state colleges to receive $1 million for 420 scholarships that could reduce the student’s tuition by up to 50 percent. Students who will be freshman in 2007 will be the first ones eligible to apply for them.

The money to fund the program will come from the state’s portion of a settlement involving tobacco money.

“Some say you have to find another funding source. I say there is no other funding source,” said Douglas in a speech that lasted about an hour and a half and was broadcast live on WIUV.

“I support the whole scholarship program and believe it will benefit many Vermont students in the future,” said President Dave Wolk.

“I’m in,” said theater professor Harry McEnerny. “I think it’s a good idea. I think if there is some kind of help for my kids, I think it would be great.’

Not all of the reaction to the speech was overly enthusiastic, however.

“I still don’t have a lot of confidence that this program is going to benefit Vermont,” said student Rebecca Seguin. “There are not a lot of high-paying jobs, and graduating students are going to have to go out of state in order to make some sort of living. I thought some of the answers were vague and sounded rehearsed.”

Other students were upset that they won’t qualify for scholarships.

“I wish that some of the money that was coming to the college would go to students who have proven that they could be successful on the college level, specifically the upper classmen,” said another student Benjamine Beatty-Owens.

Douglas said that Vermont has the lowest fertility rate in the nation, and immigration to the state is very low.

“Loosing this number of our state’s youth population will have a huge impact on our fiscal future,” said Douglas. “There are a lot of families in our state where college isn’t really on the radar screen.”

Douglas said that he considered lowering tuition, but said that this would only work for ten years, and tuition would become very high on year 11.

“I’m delighted with any help that the students can get to keep down student debt when they graduate,” said Castleton’s Director of Career Development Judith Carruthers. “I have already been referred to by the newspaper as ‘the dream maker’ at CSC, and I am always delighted when someone, especially the governor, has a practical idea to help our students make those dreams come true.