Access to Higher Education Fund


What do 400 electricians, more than 2,000 nurses, and nearly 500 software developers have in common? These are the kinds and numbers of promising jobs expected to open in Vermont in the next ten years. The promising jobs largely require education and/or training after high school—but only 38% of low-income Vermont high school graduates continue on to college. 

With that gap in mind, the Access to Higher Education Fund, created by the Community Foundation in partnership with the J. Warren & Lois McClure Foundation, supports programs that build equitable access to affordable and high-quality college and career education that will prepare Vermonters for secure and successful employment.

A highly skilled and educated workforce brightens Vermont’s economic outlook and improves the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Recent state legislation, including the Flexible Pathways bill of 2013, is setting the stage to build the education and training pathways Vermonters need to access promising careers. Through the Access to Higher Education Fund, we will build on that momentum by funding hands-on career exploration, tech initiatives, and programs that prepare low-income Vermont students and adults for our state’s most promising jobs.

One such program is the 2016 Women Can Do Conference, a joint effort of Vermont Works for Women and Vermont Technical College aiming to build a stronger pipeline of girls and women in high-paying STEM/trades careers in Vermont. In the fall, nearly 500 high school girls from every county in Vermont converged at the event. Within an hour, they were wielding blowtorches, creating 3D models, fixing bicycles, and extracting DNA from a green pepper. The girls chose from 70 STEM workshops led by female scientists, engineers, and trades technicians.

It was a day full of revelations and “firsts.” Asked “what did you learn today?” one conference participant offered: “Gender does not define you.” The conference led to a stronger strategic partnership between VTC and Vermont Works for Women that will increase female participation in degree offerings that lead to high-pay, high-demand careers where women are underrepresented.

Contribute to the fund or contact Carolyn Weir at or 802-388-3355 ext. 239 to learn more.