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S.312

Introduced by   Committee on Education

Date:

Subject:  Education; higher education; green mountain promise scholarship; agricultural two plus two scholarship; loan encouragement and assistance program; college entrance examinations; appropriation

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes to create a green mountain promise scholarship fund for the purpose of awarding scholarships to Vermont residents attending a Vermont postsecondary institution; create an agricultural two plus two scholarship; provide that one‑half of the scholarships shall be loans which shall be entirely forgiven for a recipient who resides in Vermont for three years following completion of postsecondary studies; create a loan encouragement and assistance program to forgive loans for Vermonters who agree to work in a geographic or employment area of critical need; establish a green mountain promise scholarship fund board to oversee the funds; stipulate that monies received annually from the strategic contribution fund established by the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement shall be deposited into the green mountain promise scholarship fund and the loan encouragement and assistance program fund; direct the commissioner of education to augment a national college entrance examination to align it with state standards; and appropriate funds therefor.

AN ACT RELATING TO HIGHER EDUCATION

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:

Sec. 1.  16 V.S.A. § 2542 is added to read:

§ 2542.  GREEN MOUNTAIN PROMISE SCHOLARSHIP FUND

(a)  A green mountain promise scholarship fund is established in the office of the state treasurer for the purpose of funding scholarships for Vermont residents enrolled in full-time undergraduate degree or approved certificate programs at a Vermont postsecondary institution.  The fund shall comprise:

(1)  Eighty percent of all monies received by the state from the strategic contribution fund established by the master tobacco settlement agreement between members of the tobacco industry and the state approved by the Vermont superior court on December 14, 1998 and finalized in Vermont on January 13, 1999, and any interest that accrues on the balance of these monies.

(2)  Appropriations made by the general assembly.

(3)  Contributions from any other sources.

(b)  The state treasurer may invest monies in the fund.  All balances in the fund at the end of each fiscal year shall be carried forward and used only for the purposes for which the fund was established.  The fund shall not be managed as a special fund pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32.

(c)  The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation shall keep records for the fund.

Sec. 2.  16 V.S.A. § 2543 is added to read:

§ 2543.  GREEN MOUNTAIN PROMISE SCHOLARSHIPS

(a)  A green mountain promise scholarship may be awarded to a Vermont resident, as defined in subdivision 2822(7) of this title, who is enrolled in a full-time undergraduate degree or approved certificate program at a Vermont postsecondary institution.  A scholarship may be awarded as follows:

(1)  The University of Vermont may award a scholarship for each of four years to pay for between 25 and 50 percent of tuition costs and institutional fees.

(2)  The Vermont State Colleges may award a scholarship for each of two or four years for between 25 and 50 percent of tuition costs and institutional fees.

(3)  The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation may award a scholarship for each of up to four years of study in the amount of up to $5,000.00 in 2006 dollars increased annually by the same percentage rate as the increase in the in-state tuition rate at the University of Vermont for that year.

(b)  Fifty percent of each scholarship awarded under this section shall be made as an interest-free conditional loan repayable over up to 10 years according to terms of a promissory note executed by the recipient and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.  The green mountain promise scholarship board may impose other terms and conditions on the loans.  The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation shall develop and administer the conditional loan origination, servicing, repayment, and forgiveness as provided in subsection (c) of this section.

(c)  Following completion or termination of undergraduate studies or full‑time graduate studies that are begun within two years of completion of an undergraduate program, repayment of the conditional loan portion of a scholarship awarded under this section may be deferred for three years.  However, if the recipient remains a resident of Vermont for three consecutive years immediately following completion of his or her undergraduate or graduate studies, and during those three years, the recipient is either engaged in full-time, permanent employment in Vermont, or on active duty status in the military, the conditional loan may be forgiven. 

(d)  A green mountain promise scholarship shall be awarded in addition to and not in lieu of any other institutional scholarships which are offered by the postsecondary institution.

Sec. 3.  16 V.S.A. § 2544 is added to read:

§ 2544.  VERMONT AGRICULTURAL TWO PLUS TWO SCHOLARSHIP

(a)  A Vermont agricultural two plus two scholarship fund is established in the green mountain promise scholarship fund for the purpose of funding full‑tuition scholarships at Vermont Technical College and the University of Vermont for Vermont residents who agree to work full time in the Vermont agricultural sector or a related field for three years after graduation from an associate’s or bachelor’s degree program with a concentration in an agricultural field. 

(b)  A Vermont agricultural two plus two scholarship may be awarded by the Vermont Technical College or the University of Vermont to a Vermont resident as defined in subdivision 2822(7) of this title who is enrolled in a full‑time associate’s degree program in an agriculture field at the Vermont Technical College, or who has received an associate’s degree in an agriculture field from the technical college and is enrolled in a bachelor’s degree program in an agricultural field at the University of Vermont.

(c)  A recipient of a Vermont agricultural two plus two scholarship must meet minimum academic standards for this scholarship set by the respective institutions in order to renew a scholarship for another year.

(d)  Fifty percent of each scholarship awarded under this section shall be an interest-free conditional loan repayable over up to 10 years according to the terms of a promissory note executed by the recipient and prepared by the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation.

(e)  Following completion or termination of undergraduate studies in an approved agricultural field, repayment of the conditional loan may be deferred for three years.  However, if the recipient remains a resident of Vermont and is employed full time in the agricultural sector or a related field in Vermont for three consecutive years immediately following completion of his or her associate’s or bachelor’s degree, the conditional loan may be forgiven. Otherwise, the loan shall be repaid in accordance with the terms of the promissory note.

Sec. 4.  16 V.S.A. § 2545 is added to read:

§ 2545.  VERMONT LOAN ENCOURAGEMENT AND ASSISTANCE

              PROGRAM

(a)  A Vermont loan encouragement and assistance program fund is established within the green mountain promise scholarship fund for the purpose of making annual loan forgiveness payments on student loans obtained from the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation for the benefit of Vermont residents who, having completed their studies and received an associate’s certificate, a bachelor’s degree, or a graduate degree, have been employed for at least one year in Vermont in a job, profession, industry, or geographic area of critical need to Vermont.

(b)  The fund created by this section shall comprise appropriations made by the general assembly, contributions from other sources, investment earnings on the amounts in the fund, and 20 percent of all monies received by the state from the strategic contribution fund established by the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement between members of the tobacco industry and the state approved by the Vermont superior court on December 14, 1998 and finalized in Vermont on January 13, 1999, and any interest that accrues on the balance of these monies.

(c)  The green mountain promise scholarship fund board shall identify jobs, professions, industries, and geographic areas of the state that currently suffer from or are expected to suffer from job shortages having strategic implications for the state’s future and shall designate them as a critical need for the purposes of this section.  In identifying and designating these critical needs over time, the board shall give due weight to the changing critical needs of the state and to the ongoing needs of students, their families, their schools, and Vermont employers for stability, reliability, and sustainability in the loan forgiveness program established in this section.  The board shall undertake a review and report of these critical needs every three years and shall promptly distribute the report to the general assembly and the governor.

(d)  The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation shall determine the amount of forgiveness of an applicant’s eligible student loans for each year of critical need employment, taking into consideration the number of qualified applicants and appropriations made specifically for the purpose of this section.  Not more than 20 percent of the then outstanding principal balance of the applicant’s student loans may be forgiven each year, for five years, subject to the availability of loan forgiveness funds under this section.  Annually, the green mountain promise scholarship fund board may determine an amount that shall be paid from the fund to the corporation for administration of this program.

(e)  The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation may develop policies and procedures and adopt rules for the purposes of implementing this section.

(f)  This section shall apply to student loans borrowed by students who receive their certificate or degree on or after May 1, 2007.

Sec. 5.  16 V.S.A. § 2546 is added to read:

§ 2546.  GREEN MOUNTAIN PROMISE SCHOLARSHIP FUND BOARD

(a)  A green mountain promise scholarship fund board is created to consist of the president of the University of Vermont, the chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges, the president of the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, a representative of a private Vermont postsecondary institution appointed by the governor for a term of three years, and the secretary of administration who shall be the chair.

(b)  The board shall develop guidelines and procedures for implementation of the green mountain promise scholarship program.

(c)  Annually, the board shall:

(1)  Following consultation with the state treasurer, establish a cash-flow plan for the green mountain promise scholarship fund that will enable awarding of scholarships through 2021 in a way that ensures that scholarships awarded in the final year shall be to students in their final year of undergraduate studies.

(2)  Determine an amount to be allocated to the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation for administration of subsections 2543(b) and (c) of this title.

(3)  Based on the cash‑flow plan, determine an amount that shall be available for scholarship awards in the next fiscal year.  The amount determined shall be used to pay for Vermont agricultural two plus two scholarships awarded pursuant to section 2544 of this title, and the remainder shall be divided equally among the University of Vermont, the Vermont State Colleges, and the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation to be used pursuant to section 2543 of this title.  The board may allocate funds unequally if it finds that one institution did not use its entire allocation in the previous year.

(4)  Certify to the commissioner of finance and management the amount to be distributed to each institution.  The commissioner shall make the payments in a manner that facilitates payment of tuition when due and optimizes investment return for the fund.

Sec. 6.  NATIONAL COLLEGE ENTRANCE EXAMINATIONS

The commissioner of education shall develop assessment materials that augment a national college entrance examination and a precollege examination so that they can be used in grades 10 and 11 to measure achievement of state standards pursuant to 16 V.S.A. § 164(9) as well as for career and educational planning and for college entrance applications. 

Sec. 7.  APPROPRIATION

(a)  The amount of $2,500,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the green mountain promise scholarship fund in fiscal year 2007.

(b)  The amount of $500,000.00 is appropriated from the general fund to the commissioner of education to develop materials to augment national college entrance examinations pursuant to Sec. 6 of this act.  Any funds appropriated under this subsection which are not encumbered by the commissioner by October 1, 2007 shall be deposited into the green mountain promise scholarship fund.

Sec. 8.  SUNSET

Secs. 1, 2, 4, and 5 of this act shall be repealed on June 30, 2021.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us