VSAC’s Talent Search program receives 6-year funding extension

Program helps over 1,000 students each year with college enrollment and career training

WINOOSKI – The federally-funded Talent Search program, which has made great strides connecting modest income Vermont high school students with opportunities for college and training, has received a six-year funding extension, according to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC), which has administered the grant program since 1969.

The six-year, $2.6 million grant will allow VSAC to continue its work in 46 middle and high schools across the state. Each year, VSAC Talent Search counselors work with approximately 1,000 Vermont students, supporting them in areas such as study skills, career exploration, the college research and application processes, and selection of high school courses that will best prepare them for their post-secondary track.

VSAC measures program outcomes each year, and recent data show strong success rates for the students who are part of VSAC’s Talent Search. For example, in the class of 2020, 78% of Talent Search participants enrolled in a postsecondary education program by the following academic year, compared with 52% of non-Talent-Search-affiliated graduating seniors who were first-generation to college (meaning neither parent has a bachelor’s degree). According to the Vermont Agency of Education, the state’s overall postsecondary enrollment rate is about 62%. 

The Vermont Congressional delegation played a critical role in securing funding for this innovative career and education outreach program. Scott Giles, President and CEO of VSAC, thanked Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders, and Congressman Peter Welch, for their continued support.

“Talent Search helps us open the doors to higher education for young Vermonters across the state who face and are working to overcome significant barriers to achieving their education and career goals. These students are a critical part of our state efforts to strengthen our workforce and grow our post-pandemic economy. We are proud to support them on their career and education journey and these funds make it all possible,” Giles said.

                Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, emphasized the importance of programs like Talent Search for Vermonters and for the state of Vermont. “We know that education beyond high school is critical to preparing young people for the jobs of the future,” he said, “and we know that VSAC’s work is paying off in terms of getting more low-income and first-generation Vermonters to go on to college. These investments will pay dividends for generations to come, both for the individuals and for the state’s economy. I’m proud to play a part in ensuring that important work continues.”

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chair of the Senate Budget Committee and a senior member of the Senate’s education committee said, “Every student who wants to should be able to further their education after high school, regardless of their background or how much money they have.  Now more than ever, we must do everything we can to help our students prepare for, and succeed in, college. VSAC plays a critical role in helping students do just that, which is why I am so glad they are receiving this federal grant and why I will continue to fight for the Talent Search program and all federal TRIO programs.”

Congressman Peter Welch (D-VT) added that higher education is an essential part of planning for a strong future. “The Talent Search program is about ensuring that all Vermont students – regardless of their background or income – can access opportunities through higher education and training programs. This isn’t just about building a more equitable future for all Vermonters, this is about investing in our state’s workforce. With many employers struggling right now to fill jobs that do everything from providing critical health care to teaching our children, programs like VSAC’s Talent Search have never been more important.” 

VSAC Talent Search participants must meet eligibility criteria in terms of family income and first-generation status. Eligible students can be enrolled in the VSAC Talent Search program as early as sixth grade and continue through high school graduation.

Enrolled students meet regularly with an assigned VSAC counselor, usually embedded in their school, who offers them one-on-one support in career exploration, postsecondary searching, and planning, and completing college and financial aid applications. Students can also take advantage of Talent Search-organized college visits and participate in summer education and enrichment programs.

Talent Search is a U.S. Department of Education federally funded TRIO program founded in 1965. Each year, more than 363,300 students are enrolled in 466 Talent Search Trio programs across the US.  Learn more about TRIO


About VSAC – Changing Lives through Education and Training since 1965: Vermont Student Assistance Corporation is a public, nonprofit agency established by the Vermont Legislature in 1965 to help Vermonters achieve their education and training goals after high school. VSAC serves students and their families in grades 7-12, as well as adults returning to school, by providing education and career planning services, need-based grants, scholarships, and education loans. VSAC has awarded more than $600 million in grants and scholarships for Vermont students and administers Vermont’s 529 college savings plan. Learn more at vsac.org.