Despite its small size and population, Vermont is home to a surprisingly large number of online colleges and universities. If you’re thinking about pursuing an online degree or certificate at one of these colleges but don’t know how to get started, you’ve come to the right place. Below you’ll find information on the state’s best and most affordable accredited online colleges, financial aid and how to choose the right school.
Online learning at the postsecondary level has grown so rapidly in the United States over the past decade that it’s now unusual for a college or university to not offer online options. Colleges in Vermont are no exception. The state is home to six public colleges (five four-year and one two-year) all with substantial distance learning programs. Leading the way is the University of Vermont, which currently offers 24 online programs – ranging from a master’s degree in public health to a business of craft beer certificate – many of which can be completed totally online.
There are 15 private non-profit four-year colleges in Vermont, 13 of which offer online courses or degrees. Champlain College in Burlington offers more than 50 degrees and certificates that can be earned 100% online.
College is a big investment, regardless of where or how you attend. Just how expensive, though, can depend on field of study, degree level and whether the school is public or private. Tuition costs can also vary substantially based on whether the student is a Vermont resident. Take a look at how tuition can vary:
Public 4-year in-state: $15,062
Public 4-year out-of-state: $36,475
Private 4-year: $39,518
Public 2-year in-state: $6,054
Public 2-year out-of-state: $11,958
Source: National Center for Education Statistics (2015-2016)
Students who are permanent Vermont residents will pay in-state tuition rates for their online college degree programs. Whether non-residents pay in-state or out-of-state tuition depends primarily on two things – the specific academic program and the student’s state of residence.
Vermont participates in the New England Regional Student Program (RSP) Tuition Break program, which allows permanent residents from six New England states (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont) to enroll in degree programs at 82 New England public colleges and universities at discounted tuition rates. The total amount saved varies by program, but the 2016-17 average annual savings for a full-time student was $8,033. Vermont residents are eligible if their degree is not offered in Vermont but is available at a school in a participating state. Other rules and restrictions apply, so be sure to review all requirements carefully.
Another notable program for non-residents is JSC Online, the distance learning program of Johnson State College. JSC Online students living outside of Vermont pay in-state tuition rates for all online courses regardless of whether they are residents of New England or not.
1. Vermont residents pay in-state tuition rates for degree and certificate programs at any Vermont college.
2. Depending on the specific academic program, residents of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island may be eligible for discounted tuition rates if they attend a Vermont college.
Financial aid is available to all qualified students pursuing a degree or certificate program at an accredited Vermont college. For federal aid, the application process typically starts with the Free Application for Student Financial Aid (FAFSA) form. The current FAFSA submittal period is October 1 to June 30 for the upcoming academic year. It’s important to note, however, that many other financial aid sources – including state-sponsored and private scholarships and grants – use information from FAFSA in making their award determinations, and many of these sources have earlier application deadlines. For example, the current deadline for all VSAC-Assisted Scholarships is February 16, 2018. Students should submit their FAFSA form as early as possible.
To be eligible for federal financial aid, a student must:
Be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen
Have a valid Social Security number (not required for students from the Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or the Republic of Palau)
Demonstrate financial need for aid (applicable to most but not all programs)
Be enrolled or accepted for enrollment as a regular student in an eligible academic program. The Direct Loan Program requires a minimum half-time enrollment.
Hold a high school diploma or GED certificate, or have completed a state-approved home school program
Not be in default on a federal student loan or owe money on a federal student grant, and certify that aid funds will be used for educational purposes only
Register with the Selective Service (applicable to males not currently serving in the U.S. Armed Forces)
In addition to federal loans, students and their parents may be eligible for fixed-rate student loans through the Vermont Advantage Loans program. Vermont Advantage Loans are available to both students coming into the state to attend a Vermont college, and Vermont residents attending colleges throughout the U.S. and abroad.
Once a student has received financial aid, he or she must continue to meet certain minimum standards, known as Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP), to maintain eligibility. Every institution establishes its own set of SAP requirements within certain federally-mandated parameters. As an example, Johnson State College students receiving financial aid must maintain the following academic minimums:
1.75 for undergraduates carrying fewer than 30 credits; 2.0 for undergrads carrying 30 or more credits; 3.0 for graduate students
Students must complete 67% of the total credits in which they enroll (remedial courses are not counted toward SAP)
An undergraduate must complete his or her degree program within 150% of the time required for the credits taken. Master’s student time frames are determined by the specific degree program.
JSC students who don’t meet these standards will have their financial aid suspended, although suspension may be appealed to the Financial Aid Review Board. Similar appeal processes are in place at most other colleges. For more information on financial aid policies for your online program, be sure to contact your school’s financial aid office.
Grants and scholarships are excellent sources of financial aid. They’re particularly attractive because, as opposed to student loans, they’re “free money”, meaning student don’t have to pay them back. They’re often overlooked, however. While many awards consider academics or special talents, several are based on a range of other factors, including the specific school or program attended, the student’s cultural or ethnic background and extracurricular activities. Grants are often awarded based on the student’s financial need. The bottom line – it’s always worth researching what’s available.
Scholarships and grants for Vermont students are available from a wide range of public and private sources. A good place to start your search is with these State of Vermont-sponsored programs:
VSAC-Assisted Grants: The Vermont Student Assistance Corporation, or VSAC, is a non-profit state-created agency providing a range of services to Vermont students and their families. There are currently three VSAC-Assisted Grants available: the Vermont Incentive Grant, the Vermont Part-Time Grant, and the Vermont Non-Degree Grant. Money amounts vary depending on the particular college and program attended, and on the student’s financial need. Other restrictions and requirements apply as well.
VSAC-Assisted Scholarships: VSAC-Assisted Scholarships are competitive scholarships open to all otherwise-qualified Vermont residents. There are over 160 VSAC-Assisted Scholarships available, each with its own award amounts and unique requirements, so be sure to review the list of scholarships carefully to determine which ones you are eligible for. You’ll need to fill out and submit both your FAFSA form and the Unified Scholarship Application (USA). Applications and all other required documents may be submitted between November 1, 2017 and February 18, 2018 for the 2018-2019 college term.
Students shouldn’t limit themselves to only state-sponsored programs. To find more opportunities, try the U.S. Department of Labor’s scholarship finder.
Every scholarship and grant has its own application process and requirements, so be sure to check the details for each program carefully. Students interested in VSAC-Assisted Scholarships, for example, will need to fill out and submit both the FAFSA and the Unified Scholarship Application (USA).
Common requirements usually include:
A properly-completed application
Submittal of all requested financial, personal and academic information
Submittal of high school and college transcripts
Submittal of letters of recommendation
Submittal of a written essay on a given topic
Remember, many scholarships and grants use information provided on the FAFSA, so students are advised to send in their FAFSA as soon as possible.
The above rankings can help narrow down your list of potential Vermont online colleges, but in order to choose the one school that’s right for you, you’ll have to do some research into the programs that best suit your unique academic needs and interests. The three questions below are among the most frequently asked by students looking at online colleges.
Yes, in most cases, colleges and universities in Vermont will accept transfer credits from other accredited postsecondary institutions both within and outside state borders. However, each school has its own rules for credit evaluation and acceptance. For example, all credits earned at any Vermont State College System (VSCS) school, as well as most general education credits earned at the Community College of Vermont (CCV), will be accepted without question at all other colleges within the system. Credits earned at out-of-system schools, however, are evaluated on a per-course basis by the specific school applied to.
In addition, many Vermont colleges have established guidelines for awarding college credits for knowledge and experience gained outside of the classroom. Administered by the CCV, the VSCS’s Prior Learning Assessment programs, for example, allow students to earn credits through four methods: credit by examination, course challenge, assessment of prior learning, and focused portfolio development.
To find out more about credit transfers and earning credits for prior learning, contact each online program under consideration before enrollment.
No. While it’s true that attending an out-of-state online college may mean paying a substantially higher tuition rate, Vermont residents are not limited to only those distance learning programs offered by colleges in their state.
Start by giving some good hard thought to your academic, career and life goals. Next, decide on the field of study and the degree or certificate that will best help you meet those goals. Make sure that any online program you consider is fully and properly accredited, like all of the schools mentioned on this page. Next, consider several other important factors, including tuition costs, school reputation, support services provided and technical course delivery requirements, to see if the school meets all your needs.