The following is part of an email I sent to Senator Bill Doyle this evening:
I apologize for the long delay in sending you this – I promised it to you at least twice back in October, and I’m only getting it to you now.
As you know, Vermont (like much of the country) faces several challenges in the coming years, including shifting demographics. This is in part due to young people leaving the state for more and better jobs. Losing these young people means that much of the education paid for by Vermonters through institutions like the University of Vermont and your own Johnson State College do not serve to enrich Vermont’s culture and economy over the long term. Many sectors are hard-hit by this brain drain as Gov. Shumlin suggested today, but for the sake of my proposal, I focus on two: early childhood educators and information technology professionals. The heart of my proposal is “scholarship for service” — students get their junior and/or senior years of a Bachelor’s degree paid for, and following graduation, they are contractually obligated to take a job with the State of Vermont (or even simpler, within the state) for an equal number of years as they received a scholarship. Several federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the Department of Homeland Security, and so on, have had much success recruiting information security professionals through a program described here:
The National Security Agency designates certain colleges and universities as “Centers of Academic Excellence”, which allows students attending those institutions and in the proper degree programs to qualify for the federal scholarships. My employer, Norwich University, is one of these Centers of Academic Excellence, and several of our top students are currently having their tuition paid by the US government. I would be happy to put you in touch with one of them or Norwich’s faculty liaison to the Scholarship for Service program if you think they might be helpful.
I suggest offering a small handful of these scholarships to Vermont students majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or early childhood education as a small pilot project to determine the effectiveness of such a program. For the price of $20,000 to $30,000 per year per scholarship, Vermont stands to retain qualified young professionals in fields where there is a shortage, in the years of their lives when they are most likely to put down roots and stay in Vermont long-term. If the scholarship is shown to be effective in keeping our information technology professionals and early childhood educators in the state, it could be rolled out on a much larger scale, with the investment in education paying easily-documented dividends in the years to come.