Letter to the editor: CCV is the gift of a better future, enjoy it | Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

This letter is from Dylan Giambatista, former Vermont State Representative, former administrator of the Vermont State College System, and Community College of Vermont alumnus.

Imagine being a college student trying to get ahead but facing obstacles at every turn. Maybe it was an overdue phone bill, an unexpected daycare center closing, or a failed vehicle inspection that prompted them to skip class because there wasn’t enough money for essentials. . Would you be able to continue without a helping hand? These are the barriers that many Vermonters face when seeking higher education. Fortunately, this giving season, we are fortunate to provide direct financial support to vulnerable students at risk of dropping out by donating to the Community College of Vermont (CCV) Life Gap Fund.

CCV’s twelve academic centers across the state provide Life Gap grants to address costs that interfere with a student’s ability to stay in school. These funds are provided on a need basis. Scholarships are typically $250 or less, but as real-life examples illustrate, every dollar counts in overcoming a difficult situation that could otherwise derail a student’s progress. VCC counselors work with recipients to understand their needs and coordinate resources through community partners. The result is improved immediate and long-term prospects for students who would otherwise face financial hardship and academic stalemate.

These scenarios are not theoretical. The difficulties are real and can be deeply painful. I know firsthand from my experience as a struggling learner and alumnus of CCV. I dropped out of Rutland area high school shortly after my sixteenth birthday. My path to getting back on track was anything but direct. In total, more than seven years passed from the time I left high school to the day my associate degree was awarded in 2010. I faced starts and stops, I I did odd jobs and dropped out for a semester, feeling lost, more in debt, and no closer to my educational goals. The continued support and excellence of the instructors and teaching staff provided kept me going. The doors to their campus were always open and the wider CCV community gave me purpose.

This story is more common than you might think. The legendary journey through high school and up to a four-year degree is less and less typical. According to research compiled by Advance Vermont, 33% of Vermont undergraduates are 30 or older. An equal share faces housing insecurity, while 35% struggle to put food on the table. These students must reconcile several commitments to make ends meet. Eighty percent of CCV’s 10,000 students statewide are working full-time or part-time while reducing requirements for certifications and degrees. Many of these working students are not eligible for scholarships, forcing them to take out expensive loans.

Students who complete a certificate or diploma program significantly increase their annual and lifetime earning potential. Where it becomes problematic is when these already very thin students are faced with difficult life events that force them to choose between finishing their studies or dropping out, assuming their student debt without any diploma to prove. In early 2022, CCV expanded its Life Gap initiative to provide even more resources for students. The effort reflects a growing need. Since the pandemic took hold in 2020, students have faced additional challenges and increasing financial pressures. It’s hard to imagine a tougher time to be an adult learner.

When I heard students’ stories of the challenges they face, it reminded me of my own struggles and the role CCV has played in shaping my future. That’s why I urge my neighbors to consider becoming a CCV donor this giving season. By supporting CCV’s Life Gap Fund, we sow hope for the most at-risk members of CCV’s 10,000 student members. The impact of your gift will multiply many times over as these students contribute to Vermont in the decades to come. Please join me in giving the gift of a brighter future.

Dylan Giambati

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