VSAC and VSC Residency Requirements - Feb 14, 2024

The House Education Committee reviewed H.817 on Wednesday afternoon. This bill would prohibit the Vermont State Colleges policies regarding residency for tuition purposes from discriminating or excluding a person based solely on the person’s immigration status. This bill also proposes to require the Vermont Student Assistance Corporation (VSAC) to make state-funded financial aid available to all persons who meet the definition of resident, regardless of the person’s immigration status.

The bill requires VSAC to factor in eligibility for federal financial aid qualification in their financial needs assessment when determining financial aid amounts (essentially compensating for the fact a student may not receive federal tuition assistance).

Scott Giles (Executive Director, VSAC) noted that much of this boils down to the application process which requires VSAC to collect Social Security numbers which this group of individuals do not possess. He said that residency requirements can be satisfied without social security numbers and these methods are employed by other states.

He has been working with advocacy organizations and knows it is a policy question which the Legislature must determine. Social Security is used as a validation of information regarding employment, income and so forth. The advocacy groups are asking what aid is available for undocumented students. Giles explained that there are two groups that have these issues. One is a completely undocumented group which means they have no federal identifier. The second group are individuals who may have come over on a different visa and are now applying for refugee status and are in ‘limbo’.  They do not qualify for state assistance either. Within our current statutes there is a residency requirement and immigration status requirement.

This bill is proposing that the Legislature resolve the policy issue and have VSAC establish a separate scholarship for these undocumented immigrants. It was suggested that they should perhaps establish a pilot program to determine the demand and need. VSAC would have to change all its internal systems so they would recognize the lack of social security number.

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