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Time to Invest in Yourself with VSAC’s 802Opportunity Grant

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VSAC Staff

Date
January 3, 2024

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students in classroom

The new year gives you a chance to reflect on what you love about life, and what you want to change in the future. Education has always been a powerful tool for enhancing life choices and goals. If you see college education as a gateway to a new life, consider the 802Opportunity grant. The 802Opportunity grant program is administered by VSAC in partnership with the Community College of Vermont (CCV) and is available to Vermonters looking for a fresh start.

The 802Opportunity grant pays for up to two years of free tuition at CCV. The grant is available to Vermont families who fit these two criteria:

  • have a family Adjusted Gross Income of $75,000 or less per year
  • don't already have a bachelor’s degree

According to the latest Census, about half of all Vermont families qualify for free this free college tuition grant.

Thousands of students, who may have otherwise been discouraged by the cost of education or career training, have walked through CCV’s open doors. For example, Halley Riley-Elliott, the Vehicle Maintenance Manager at Killington Resort, “... was that kid who never wanted to go to college. I thought it was too expensive.” Now she oversees anything on the mountain that has a motor: snowcats, ATVs, side-by-sides.

Halley decided to work as a mechanic when she bought a Jeep Wrangler, and graduated with her associate degree in Diesel Power Tech from Vermont State University, Randolph. Halley notes that an associate degree was a milestone in her journey. Once she was introduced to the possibility of going to technical school, rather than four years of college, the wheels on her Jeep turned along with her perspective—and she started to reconsider.

Vermont Career Connect: Meet Halley Riley-Elliot, Vehicle Maintenance Manager, Killington Resort

What does your future look like? With 802Opportunity, you’ll find the space to figure it out.

When most people think about community college, they think about a traditional two-year associate degree. At CCV, you could earn an associate degree in art & design, business, education, healthcare, human services, information technology, liberal studies, manufacturing, and STEM fields. But you may be surprised to find out that CCV courses can also lead to digital badges, credentials, and certificates, via flexible pathways where credits add up while working toward a degree. 

After earning an associate degree, nearly half of all CCV graduates choose to continue their education. CCV makes this easy with ready-to-use transfer agreements with schools within the Vermont State University system. So if you have some college credits but haven't completed your degree, now is the perfect time to finish what you started, tuition-free. CCV’s stackable credits also unlock a world of opportunity (802Opportunity, that is!) to try new things.

Love kids but not sure if teaching is for you? Take classes to earn a certificate in After School and Youth Work. 

Are you everyone’s go-to when they are having internet or computer issues? Try out a credential in Cybersecurity or a certificate in IT Support before you decide to go for a full associate degree in Information Technology. 

What subject would you like to try before you jump in? At a recent Vermont Career Connect panel discussion, Stephane Katende described his education journey. What started as his middle school goal of being a superstar singer, led to discovering a love for computers (along with gaming) in high school. Now a software engineer, Stephane recommends, "Try a bunch of different things and be comfortable with what drives you—if you find something you love, you know it's what you want to do."

Vermont Career Connect: Stephane Katende, Software Engineer, Control Technologies

Flexible programming makes it even easier to pursue your dreams

Most people need a regular paycheck so they can keep paying their bills while taking classes. Even if you aren’t currently employed, chances are you have commitments that fill (or overfill!) your life. When you leverage 802Opportunity at CCV, not only is your tuition free, but the program’s flexibility makes education manageable so you can manage your time and responsibilities.

Classes at CCV are offered in person or online, part-time or full-time, during the day or in the evening. Flexible programming makes it easier to:

  • Work and stay out of debt.
  • Upskill at your current job with an eye toward a new role or promotion.
  • Be present for your children or family while preparing for future employment or keeping your skills current. 

For instance, Business programs at CCV include three degrees:

  1. Accounting
  2. Business, and
  3. Professional Studies

And six certificates that can be completed 100% online:

  1. Bookkeeping
  2. Digital Marketing
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Funeral Director
  5. Human Resources Management, and
  6. Leadership Skills

VSAC and CCV's 802Opportunity make it easy to discover and create a new journey. Here are a few takeaways from last year:

  • More than 2,600 Vermonters, from all 14 counties, enrolled at the 12 CCV academic sites using 802Opportunity, up 24% since its first year of existence.
  • The two-year program is open to new or returning students of any age. Last year, students ranged in age from 17–79, with an average age of 30.
  • And more than 270 students completed their degree or certification. Read how the 802Opportunity grant is reducing barriers and providing opportunities to Vermonters.

How will education make a difference in my life?

Education increases economic opportunity. Studies show the high-demand, high-pay jobs in Vermont require college or training, and education is the key to, well … nearly everything in life. An associate degree, certificate, or credential from CCV can provide the knowledge and skills you’ll need to pursue a higher-paying job, advance in the job you have, or build a bridge into advanced programs and courses. You can choose from more than 30 flexible programs in highly sought-after career fields at CCV.

Connecting with a mentor or someone who is working in the field can also be a good start. They'll help you understand the possibilities of how a degree translates to real world work. For instance:

  • An Early Childhood Education associate of arts degree helps students develop knowledge, skills, and experience to work effectively with young children and families.
  • An Information Technology associate of science degree prepares students to provide support to systems and troubleshoot issues encountered by users.
  • Pharmacy Technician certificate prepares students to locate, dispense, pack, and label prescribed medication under the supervision of a licensed pharmacist.
  • Workplace Skills certificate provides students with the skills necessary to be successful in today's workplace: good communication, problem-solving, critical thinking, and decision making.

802Opportunity exists because Vermont has decided to invest in you.

Funding for 802Opportunity was first approved by the Vermont Legislature and Governor Scott in 2021. Recognizing the success of the program, the Legislature and Governor Scott included 802Opportunity in the state’s base budget in 2023, providing permanent funding for the program.

Why does Vermont want to invest in the 802Opportunity? Because offering opportunities to raise skills and lower debt for all Vermonters is critical to making our state more affordable, and cultivating Vermont’s workforce is foundational to the future of all Vermonters. “Investing in workforce development will create huge dividends for Vermont families and for the Vermont economy. This means that Vermonters can count on this successful and life-changing opportunity to train and educate themselves for high-demand and high-wage,” notes Scott Giles, VSAC president & CEO. 

And it also means: Great jobs with Vermont employers are waiting. For you. 

Ready to jumpstart your future? Classes start January 22, 2024. 

We hope you’re ready to invest in your future because Vermont is ready to invest in you! CCV Class registration runs from January 15–19, and 802Opportunity Grants are available now for the Spring 2024 semester. Classes begin on January 22, 2024. You can explore all CCV associate, credential, and certificate programs to find the perfect one for you.

Start by applying for an 802Opportunity grant and looking through our FAQ. The grant, in combination with state and federal grant aid, covers tuition for all credits in a degree program of the student’s choice, as well as the $100 administrative fee. The grant does not cover lab and studio fees, books, or other supplies. You can also give us a call at 800-642-3177, 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, and contact us online at info@vsac.org.