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New loan repayment program encourages grads to work in VT

Written by
VSAC Staff

August 25, 2023


3 grads in the Green Mountain Job & Retention Program

Jessica Neilson of Rutland, Emma Nadeau of Derby, and Ben Hulett of Shaftsbury are benefitting from a $5,000 loan repayment incentive to launch their careers and stay in Vermont.

A brand-new student loan repayment program, designed to incentivize recent college graduates to stay in Vermont, is already having an impact as members of the Class of 2023 determine their next steps.

Under the Green Mountain Job & Retention Program, the State of Vermont, in collaboration with the University of Vermont and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), will repay up to $5,000 of a student’s outstanding college debt, if they graduated with a bachelor’s degree from a Vermont college or university in the spring of 2023 and agree to work in Vermont for at least two years.

Three recent grads who took advantage of the program to launch their careers in Vermont agree that the $5,000 benefit is a huge help. “I definitely appreciate any financial assistance I can get. I didn’t want to pass it up,” says Rutland’s Jessica Neilson, who earned her degree in forensic psychology from Castleton University (now a campus of Vermont State University).

Assisting Vermont's Mental Health Needs

Neilson is a Care Transition Coordinator with the Community Care Network of Rutland, where she works with Vermonters with mental health conditions and substance use disorders. As graduation approached, she says, “My main goal was to get a job, and I didn’t necessarily have a preference for where. I think I got really lucky with my internship placement [at Community Care Network last fall], and being able to turn that into a full-time job this spring was really rewarding. I’m very grateful to be able to work here, and to be involved with the community where I grew up.”

Emma Nadeau of Derby, who graduated with a degree in psychology from St. Michael’s College, also decided to enter Vermont’s in-demand mental health care field. She is now a Behavioral Interventionist for Northeast Kingdom Human Services in Newport and will be working one-on-one starting this fall with an elementary-aged student with behavioral challenges. “I’ve always been interested in mental health, and I wanted to help others and give back,” she says. She has an interest in someday working as a school counselor, and she sees this job as a great opportunity to enter the field.

Nadeau, who worked hard to earn her bachelor’s degree in three years, says the loan repayment program “gets me down to a point where I’m able to pay for the rest of [my undergraduate education] on my own. It’s very helpful, especially when you’re just starting a new chapter of your life,” she says.

Both Nadeau and Neilson plan to go on to graduate school, and they say the program puts them in a better position to do so. Says Nadeau: “This program makes a huge difference when I’m looking to move ahead with my education. I now have the opportunity to start my master’s degree without having my undergraduate degree still to pay for.”

Following a Passion for Farming 

Benjamin Hulett considered leaving the state – and did, briefly, to pursue an education in graphic design that didn’t end up being a good fit. When he returned to Vermont in 2016, he went back to a farm in his hometown where he’d worked during high school summers, and realized he had a passion for agriculture. “That whole time I was pursuing graphic design, and then trying to figure something else out, it never occurred to me that maybe I should just stick with farming. I love the crew that I work with, and it’s a really nice place to be,” says Ben, now 26, who is the Assistant Manager of Clear Brook Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Shaftsbury. He earned his bachelor’s in Diversified Agriculture from Vermont Technical College (now part of Vermont State University) and applied for the loan repayment program at the urging of his advisor. “Having money taken off my loans for doing something that I loved was well worth it,” says Hulett.

All three say the program was very easy and straightforward to apply for. “It took me maybe five minutes,” says Hulett. Nadeau reports that it was a “very smooth application process, especially compared to other money opportunities that have been pretty complicated.”

Hulett, whose family has lived in Shaftsbury for 225 years, also appreciates the philosophical goals of the program. “Having deep roots in Vermont, I see the state as a large part of my identity,” he says. “Many of my friends didn’t see job opportunities in Vermont. While there are some sectors you may not find here, there are more options than people might realize. Trying to keep college-educated youth in the state is going to be beneficial in the long run. The more of those people who stay, the more likely some might open their own businesses or start their own farms. It’s an important piece of keeping small communities alive and keeping the economy going.”

Find out more about the Green Mountain Job & Retention Program and how to apply at To learn more about other funding opportunities, see VSAC's resources for workforce development and Vermont grants.