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Don Vickers, who will retire in June after 25 years as the chief executive of Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), has been chosen to receive the Eleanor M. McMahon Award for Lifetime Achievement from the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE).
The award will be conferred March 8 at a celebration in Boston attended by leaders of education, business, and government from the six New England states.
“We are so pleased that Don is receiving this award,” said VSAC Board Chair Dorothy Mitchell. “Throughout his 42 years at VSAC, Don has exhibited extraordinary leadership in improving access to higher education in Vermont and nationally. His many achievements deserve to be honored.”
Vickers’ legacy includes:
administering state grant programs for full- and part-time students, and creating the nation’s first grant program for those pursuing non-degree courses designed to enhance employability or college readiness
increasing resources for, and expanding the number of, scholarships available to Vermonters
financing and making federal education loans (including offering the nation’s first program to reduce borrowers’ loan costs), becoming a federal loan servicer after VSAC’s role in federal loan administration ended in 2010, and offering competitively priced private student loans
establishing outreach programs and career development resources for students of all ages, creating the award-winning Start Where You Are college access program, and supporting mentoring programs
helping high school students and parents plan for postsecondary education through the day-long College Pathways program, Paying for College workshops, and assistance with financial aid forms
promoting college savings through management of the state’s 529 college savings plan
creating a resource center with public access computers and free library materials available statewide, as well as offering a wealth of online resources
initiating biennial surveys of Vermont high school students to inform state higher education policies
In addition to his service at VSAC, Vickers has been active in local organizations such as the Essex Town School Board and the Stern Center for Language and Learning. He has also served on a number of state and national higher education commissions and boards, most notably the Federal Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance, Education Finance Council, and National Council of Higher Education Resources.
The NEBHE award — named in memory of the first woman to serve as commissioner of higher education in Rhode Island and as NEBHE’s chair — is among several Vickers has received during his career. At the March awards ceremony, NEBHE will also honor Johnson State College’s External Degree Program with the Vermont State Merit Award.
NEBHE was established in 1955 to promote educational opportunities for New England residents through programs focused on cost savings and affordability and college access and success. VSAC was created by the state as a public nonprofit in 1965 to help Vermonters plan and pay for education or training beyond high school.