How We Influence Policy

VSAC’s research continues to shape higher education policy in Vermont

VSAC’s Research Department plays a critical role in solving issues surrounding higher education in Vermont. For 35 years, our expert researchers have worked to collect and analyze data from state and national sources—including Vermont students themselves—in order to provide Vermont policymakers with deeper insights into the complexities of the postsecondary experience in our state. Our reports help to facilitate informed decision-making around Vermont education policy and investment of the state’s resources.

NEW VSAC REPORT  shows Vermont’s landmark nondegree grant program pays off in career opportunities and employment gains.

Findings show that students who were unemployed prior to completing a nondegree course in academic year 2015-2016 were:

  • employed either full time or part time (61 percent) or
  • enrolled in school or training programs (10 percent) by the time the they completed the survey.

Vermont’s nondegree program was the first in the nation to provide unemployed Vermonters affordable access to training and education that would ultimately lead to good-paying jobs. Demand for the program has doubled in the last decade.

VSAC Special Report

Read the full report here.


Download our higher education fact sheets for Vermont counties, FY2016, to learn more about county-specific research trends—and to see how we’re impacting students across the state:

Addison County (PDF)

Bennington County (PDF)

Caledonia County (PDF)

Chittenden County (PDF)

Essex County (PDF)

Franklin County (PDF)

Grand Isle County (PDF)

Lamoille County (PDF)

Orange County (PDF)

Orleans County (PDF)

Rutland County (PDF)

Washington County (PDF)

Windham County (PDF)

Windsor County (PDF)


VSAC Special Report

Download a VSAC Special Report for the full highlights of Vermont’s Class of 2012 Senior Survey.

VSAC surveys every Vermont high school senior every other year and publishes findings and trends in its Senior Survey Reports. Check back soon for results from the Class of 2014 and 2016! Until then, see what the Class of 2012 had to say.


Highlights and Challenges for Pursuing Postsecondary Education: Vermont’s Class of 2012

As both national and Vermont state data show, the majority of future job opportunities will require postsecondary education. Vermont’s ability to fill those jobs—and to attract innovative employers and entrepreneurs who will create new jobs for Vermont workers—will be vital to our state’s future economic well-being.

To meet these employment and economic development imperatives, the state’s policymakers have set the goal of ensuring that—by the year 2020—at least 70% of working-age Vermonters will hold a credential of value or degree by 2025 (up from the current 45.5%). This will require significant increases in the percent of Vermont students who enroll in—and complete—postsecondary education. Learn more about the initiative >

This report aims to help answer important questions in order to better address the challenges and opportunities of increasing postsecondary opportunities for Vermonters. A full 85% of Vermont graduating seniors in 2012 participated in this survey.

Results show that:

  • Vermont’s postsecondary enrollment rates lag behind the national rates:
    • 60% of Vermont’s 2012 high school seniors enrolled in college the following fall (compared to about 66% nationally)
  • Vermonters enroll in 4-year institutions at a higher rate than their New England and national counterparts:
    • 53% enrolled in a 4-year program (compared to 37% nationally and 47% in New England)
    • 7% enrolled in a 2-year program (compared to 29% nationally and 15% in New England)
  • Postsecondary aspirations are dynamic, changing even after graduating from high school:
    • 16% of Vermont’s 2012 high school seniors planned to enroll in a 2- or 4-year postsecondary program the following fall, but did not actually go on to do so. Factors that had a big impact on whether a student followed through on higher education plans included:
      • Parental education level and expectations for the student
      • Whether the student had taken an advanced math course in high school
      • Concerns about how to pay for college—and amount of financial planning and preparation
      • Gender (more female students than male students, especially among first-generation college students, followed through with enrollment)
  • A portion of students do not continue with their postsecondary education after the first year:
    • A quarter of first-year Vermont students either dropped out (14 %) or transferred to another institution (11%) by the fall of 2013
  • Postsecondary enrollment varies by geography:
    • The percentage of graduates enrolling at 2- or 4-year postsecondary institutions ranged from a low of 50% in Orange and Lamoille counties to 67% in Chittenden County

VSAC Special Report

Download a VSAC Special Report for the full highlights of Vermont’s Class of 2012 Senior Survey.


As VSAC’s research uncovers the answers to important questions about the complex realities of the journey towards postsecondary education in Vermont, we are taking action to address the issues that are holding Vermonters back—and we’re inspiring others from colleges to government officials to do the same.

For example:

  • VSAC’s 2012 Senior Survey highlighted the variation in postsecondary enrollment among Vermont counties—with Lamoille county identified as one of the counties with the lowest rates of postsecondary enrollment (50%, compared to 67% in Chittenden County). The survey also identified key barriers to postsecondary enrollment—including lack of parental encouragement and awareness of the range of postsecondary opportunities and available financial resources.
  • VSAC developed the Aspiration Project—piloted at Lamoille Union High School in 2014—as a direct response to the needs identified in the survey. The project aims to encourage parents to begin encouraging postsecondary education early on as well as to increase awareness of postsecondary opportunities and financial aid resources for students and parents. After a successful first year, the program expanded to Bellows Falls Union High School in 2015 and Hazen Union in 2016, with plans for future continued expansion.
  • VSAC’s report also helped to inspire the Community College of Vermont to start the Man Up program, which seeks to prepare young men in Lamoille County to attend college each semester. With dedicated advisers, help with goal and career identification, skill building, tutoring, mentoring opportunities, and even a gas card to offset commuting costs, this program has seen quick success.

VSAC Special Report

Download a VSAC Special Report for the full highlights of Vermont’s Class of 2012 Senior Survey.


Our research has been uncovering the nature of education trends in Vermont for years. Download past VSAC surveys of Vermont high school seniors to learn more:

Vermont students increasingly drawn toward higher education—findings from VSAC survey of Vermont high school class of 2008 (planned activities)


First-generation college-going rates increase in last decade—findings from VSAC survey of Vermont high school class of 2008 (actual activities)


Vermont students understand value of higher education—findings from VSAC survey of Vermont high school class of 2007


Parents’ hopes trump college background in students’ postsecondary decisions—findings from VSAC survey of Vermont high school class of 2005


VSAC Special Report

Download a VSAC Special Report for the full highlights of Vermont’s Class of 2012 Senior Survey.