Vermont college grads can get $5,000 if they stay here

Many of the applications for the loan repayment program have come from students at Castleton University. (Courtesy of Castleton University)

Vermont is trying to entice graduating college students to stay in the state by offering $5,000 off their student loans.

That’s if graduates of any of the state’s colleges and universities agree to work for a Vermont-based company for two years in a position that requires a four-year degree.

It’s the latest effort by the state to bolster its beleaguered workforce. The new program is funded with $2.5 million through workforce development legislation that passed last year. That’s enough to pay for grants for 400 students who graduate this spring.

“This is free money on the table,” said Michele Karode who is helping to administer the program through the University of Vermont’s Office of Engagement.

Currently, Vermont ranks last in the country in the percentage of college students who stay in the state once they graduate, according to data compiled by the Washington Post.

That’s not because there aren’t enough jobs here. Right now, there are about two openings for every unemployed person in Vermont, according to the latest data from the Vermont Department of Labor, and roughly 19,000 new job openings every year, according to an estimate by the Vermont Futures Project.

To qualify for the grants, students must graduate from a Vermont-based college or university and have to show proof of employment. Almost 70 students have sent in applications as of this week. They’ve come from all over the state — at eight of Vermont’s 12 colleges and universities that offer a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s working,” Karode said. “People are wanting the money. And they’re clearly getting jobs here.”

This story was originally published by Vermont Public, a partner of the New England News Collaborative.