VT Lawmakers Boost Lending for Startups, Create Scholars Program for Grads

May 15, 2014

A scholarship program enabling graduates to attend up to two years of college for free and increased funding to encourage more startup companies to launch or grow in Vermont were among the 2014 legislative accomplishments touted by lawmakers. The legislature also created a $4.5 million fund to attract and retain companies with substantial economic impact.

The Vermont Strong Scholars and Internship Initiative was approved as part of a larger economic development bill (S. 220) and will provide tuition loan forgiveness to graduates who stay in Vermont and work in high-demand fields. Lawmakers also added $250,000 to expand internship opportunities, according to the governor’s press release.

The approved scholars program deviates from a similar proposal introduced by Gov. Peter Shumlin during last year’s Inaugural address, which targeted only STEM graduates and offered one-year of loan forgiveness over a five-year period. This version broadens the eligible employment sectors, adds an internship component and, in combination with dual enrollment provides the opportunity for high school graduates to attend up to two years for free at a Vermont higher education institution.

An additional $500,000 was approved as part of the FY15 budget to enhance entrepreneurial lending for seed and early stage companies. The goal is to increase the availability of risk capital for companies working in knowledge-based fields, including renewable energy, advanced manufacturing, wood products manufacturing, and value-added agricultural processing. The Vermont Entrepreneurial Lending program also receives federal funds and is administered by the Vermont Economic Development Authority.

Lawmakers established a new Vermont Enterprise Fund and allocated $4.5 million to provide flexible funds for the governor to offer incentives to businesses for locating or remaining in the state.

Both the Entrepreneurial Lending program and Enterprise Fund were announced by the governor last month as economic development tools to attract, grow and retain high-tech companies. The governor had recommended using surplus funds to support the new initiatives; however, the final agreement calls for transferring excess estate taxes to pay for the program, reports VT Digger.