If high school administrators and counselors, along with school board members, could help upperclassmen at Harwood Union High School further their education by lowering college debt for their freshman year, wouldn’t they?

In Vermont, the Flexible Pathways Initiative was adopted by the Legislature in 2013. It’s a program that allows students different paths to finishing high school, including taking a few college courses while still in high school, taking college courses full time or working in a business part time to learn about the industry while attending school.

Currently, Harwood has 20 seniors enrolled in the Flexible Pathways program – one attending Clarkson University, two attending Northern University, two at Vermont Technical College, 14 at Community College of Vermont and one at Norwich University.

The number of students varies annually. In the 2015-2016 school year, Harwood had nine students enrolled in a Flexible Pathways Initiative, 2016-2017 saw 16 students, 2017-2018 had 10 students participate and this year 20.


Asked why there was an influx of students, school Principal Lisa Atwood responded via email: “More options and flexibility for students. When students can access college courses either through dual enrollment and get both high school and college credit or start the college process earlier that is a tremendous benefit. The intention again, was by the state to encourage more students to attend college.”

At Harwood Union, Flexible Pathways is introduced to students during their freshman year when they meet with their school counselors to plan their four-year course load.

Asked why seniors would opt for college rather than finish school with their peers, Atwood said, “Financial benefit. Some are ready for the learning experience. We have always had a few students ‘graduate’ early, but with Act 77, more students are accessing this opportunity because the law states we need to provide it.”

The state of Vermont pays for a certain amount of the student’s tuition to a state college after the student gains permission from their high school principal. From there, courses they register for must comply with high school graduation requirements so that students graduate from high school at the end of the spring semester. The Flexible Pathways program allows students to receive up to $75,000 in grant money.

Harwood Unified Union School District (HUUSD) Board members brought up Flexible Pathways and early college during their discussion on student enrollment projection after a presentation at the November 7 meeting. For some HUUSD Board members, the increase of interest in this program is seen as a loss for the district. When there are fewer pupils, the cost amount per pupil increases for taxpayers and, therefore, the tax rate goes up.

This is the first article in a series of articles on Flexible Pathways, students who are taking advantage of it and how it is presented to students.

NEXT ARTICLE IN SERIES:  Following a path at Harwood Union