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High schoolers: You can earn a free associate degree

If you are a high school student in Vermont, you can earn a free associate degree from the Community College of Vermont (CCV)! This program is called the McClure Free Degree Promise. All members of high school classes of 2023-2026 who meet the requirements (see below) are eligible to participate.

What is the McClure Free Degree Promise?

CCV and the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation have partnered to help high school students earn a free associate degree one year after high school. Students enroll full time in classes at CCV during their senior year. After graduation, you keep taking classes until you earn an associate degree. You have 5 semesters (including summers) after high school graduation to earn your degree. This program combines the existing Early College* program with additional money from the McClure Foundation to take the rest of the classes needed for an associate degree after high school. The program also provides you with extra free money ($500-$1,000 per semester) to help cover non-tuition costs like books and transportation.

Who is eligible for the McClure Free Degree Promise?

You must be a high school student who is in the graduating class of 2023, 2024, 2025, or 2026. While in high school, you have to participate in the Early College program through CCV. You cannot participate in Early College at a different school. During Early College, you must earn 20 college credits and get a C- or above in those classes. The team at CCV will help you make sure you meet these requirements.

What is an associate degree?

An associate degree program focuses on building skills and knowledge for a specific job or career. If you already know what type of career that you want after high school, an associate degree can be a good way to build up your skills in a focused area.

An associate degree can also be a good way to get started on earning a bachelor’s degree. In Vermont, many colleges offering bachelor’s degrees will count an associate degree from CCV toward the bachelor’s degree program at their school. This means that you can save time and money by not having to retake classes you already did for your associate degree.

Read more about different types of degrees and other credentials here.

How does this work?

To take part in this program, you need to complete your senior year of high school at CCV through the Early College program. In the Early College program, you do your senior year of high school and your first year of college at the same time. The college classes that you take count for your high school graduation, too. As an Early College student, your college classes are free!

Most high schools will allow you to still participate in sports, clubs, and other activities — but you should check with your school before signing up.

After you graduate from high school and finish Early College, you will take about one more year of college classes at CCV. However, you have five semesters (including summers) to take your remaining classes. These classes will also be free for you. Once you have completed those classes, you will have earned your associate degree.

How can this help me?

Earning a free associate degree through McClure Free Degree Promise program can help you in multiple ways:

  • You don’t have to pay for tuition!
  • If you want to get a bachelor’s degree, you will pay about half as much. 
  • If you want to start working soon after high school, you only have to spend one year as a full time college student.
  • You will get free money ($500-$1,000 per semester) toward paying for books, transportation, and other costs you might have as a college student.

What can I study?

CCV offers associate degrees in many different in-demand fields. They have programs in art & design, business, healthcare, human services, information technology, liberal studies, manufacturing, and STEM studies.

How do I get started with the McClure Free Degree Promise?

To participate in the McClure Free Degree Promise program, your first step is to apply to the Early College program at CCV. You must be a rising senior, meaning that you are in your junior year of high school.

How do I become an Early College student at CCV?

To become an Early College student, you first need to apply to CCV. The deadline to apply is usually in early August. For the 2023-2024 school year, it is August 9, 2023. This application will ask for an essay, high school transcripts, and other forms. You must also complete the Accuplacer assessment or submit official SAT/ACT scores. 

It is also recommended to file the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Your school counselor, a CCV financial aid counselor, or VSAC can help you with these applications.

Even if you don’t need help filling out the forms, you should also check in with your school counselor to let your high school know your plans.

*Early College is a program of the State of Vermont Agency of Education. It is available at four colleges in Vermont: Community College of Vermont (CCV), Goddard College, Norwich University, and Vermont State University. Only participants at CCV are eligible for the McClure Free Degree Promise.