AN ACT RELATING TO HIGHER EDUCATION
It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:
Sec. 1. THE NEXT GENERATION INITIATIVE
(a) There is created a commission to develop the next generation initiative. The commission shall be made up of four members appointed by the governor, two members appointed by the president pro tempore of the senate, two members appointed by the speaker of the house of representatives, and a chair jointly appointed by the governor, president pro tempore, and speaker. Members shall serve without compensation, and the legislative council, the joint fiscal office, and the agency of administration shall provide staff services.
(b) The commission shall develop a plan to encourage Vermonters to live and work in Vermont. The commission may consider a broad range of ideas to meet this goal. The range of ideas shall include but not be limited to:
(1) Strategies to ensure that postsecondary education is accessible and affordable for all Vermonters through grants, loans, and scholarships. Funds shall flow directly to the students and their families.
(2) Options such as loan forgiveness, tax incentives, loan repayments, and leveraging federal resources.
(3) The integration, where appropriate, of Vermont’s secondary and postsecondary workforce training programs with Vermont’s postsecondary institutions.
(4) The use of strategic investments in Vermont’s postsecondary education system to:
(A) increase the postsecondary aspiration, continuation, retention, and completion rates of Vermonters;
(B) stimulate specific economic sectors which are particularly appropriate for or unique to Vermont; and
(C) serve critical marketplace needs.
(c) The plan shall include a funding level for implementation, shall identify a funding source, and shall include a system for overseeing use of the funds.
(d) On or before December 1, 2006, the commission shall present the plan to the general assembly.
Sec. 2. 16 V.S.A. § 2887 is added to read:
§ 2887. THE NEXT GENERATION INITIATIVE FUND
(a) A next generation initiative fund is established in the office of the state treasurer to be comprised of appropriations made by the general assembly and grants, donations, or contributions from any other sources. The fund shall be administered pursuant to subchapter 5 of chapter 7 of Title 32, except that interest earned on the fund and any remaining balance shall be retained in the fund.
(b) Annually, the general assembly shall appropriate moneys in the next generation initiative fund for programs which encourage Vermonters to live and work in Vermont.
Sec. 3. APPROPRIATION
(a) There is transferred into the next generation initiative fund $5,000,000.00 from the fiscal year 2006 general fund surplus. The funds shall be divided equally and appropriated to the Vermont student assistance corporation, the University of Vermont, and the Vermont State Colleges and shall be used for scholarships for Vermont students. Each institution shall determine how to award the scholarships except that each student receiving a scholarship shall continue to receive scholarship funds for each year he or she attends a postsecondary institution and is working toward an undergraduate degree. However, no student shall receive scholarships under this subsection for more than four years.
(b) If funds are available after payments are made pursuant to Sec. 273(a) of H.881 of the 2005 Adj. Sess. (2006), up to $5,000,000.00 is transferred from the general fund to the Vermont next generation initiative fund. These funds are to be reserved for distribution based on the legislative consideration of the recommendations of the commission charged with creating the next generation initiative. Upon adoption of a next generation initiative by the general assembly, the funds may be distributed on a one-time or ongoing basis in fiscal year 2007 or fiscal year 2008, or both.
Sec. 4. EFFECTIVE DATE
Sec. 1 of this act shall take effect upon passage.
The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street