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Voices / Letters from readers

Ending student-loan portability would be a mistake

Those wishing to further their education after high school should pay close attention to two bills currently under consideration in the Vermont legislature.

H.114 and S.257 would place major restrictions on where students who are pursuing post-secondary education or training can spend their state-funded grants and scholarships. This issue is called “portability.”

For over 50 years, portability has allowed Vermont students to use these grants and scholarships to further their education, regardless of where they have chosen to attend college. If either bill passes in anything close to its current form, flexibility and freedom of choice for students will disappear.

I support portability for several reasons. First, a student may want to enroll in a program of study that is not offered by any college or university in Vermont. Veterinary medicine, cybersecurity, and health-care information technology are three examples.

Vermont’s students should have the right to pursue any curriculum in any state and have the right to apply their state-funded grants and scholarships to pay for it.

Second, any student, parent, or guidance counselor will affirm that the key to a successful post-secondary education is finding a good match for the student. Portability gives Vermont’s high-school graduates greater flexibility and choice in finding the post-secondary school and program that are best for them.

Third, many of the grants and scholarships awarded to Vermont students are need-based. Eliminating portability will disproportionately and adversely affect lower-income students — students whose families can least afford additional student debt.

I serve on the board of directors for the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) and have done so since 2004. In addition, I taught for 33 years in a small Windham County middle-high school and have lived in that community for 46 years.

I have seen firsthand the benefits of post-secondary education or training for hundreds of my former students. I believe strongly that students who graduate from Vermont’s high schools should have the financial flexibility to pursue their post-secondary goals and dreams, whether they do so in Vermont or beyond. Portability helps do that.

Dave Larsen

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Originally published in The Commons issue #446 (Wednesday, February 14, 2018). This story appeared on page D3.

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