This update was published April 20:
The vote to close the Northern Vermont University campuses in Johnson and Lyndon has been postponed from April 20 until April 27.
The Vermont State Colleges System board of trustees decided on the one-week delay after the recommendation by Chancellor Jeb Spaulding drew tremendous opposition from legislators, alumni, faculty and students.
Those critics are likely to come up with alternatives that would save the two state colleges, where more than 80 percent of students are Vermonters, and where many students are the first in their families to go to college.
This report was published April 17:
The Johnson and Lyndon campuses of Northern Vermont University should be shut down this fall, says the chancellor of the Vermont State College System.
Chancellor Jeb Spaulding cited aging demographics and stagnant enrollment, as well as lack of financial support from the state government.
Spaulding this morning said the coronavirus pandemic contributed to his decision. He attributed it to a predicted 15 to 20 percent drop in enrollment in the fall, and the $12 million budget deficit that comes with that.
“We cannot wait and hope for recovery,” Spaulding said today. “We must act decisively to chart a course toward long-term viability.”
The state college board of trustees will vote in a virtual meeting Monday on Spaulding’s recommendations. For more information and to submit written comments to the board, visit bit.ly/2xBCiF2.
If the vote goes through, Johnson and Lyndon will be absorbed by Castleton University, and current students will be transferred there. Spaulding’s plan also calls for shuttering Vermont Technical College’s main Randolph campus, with those students consolidated into the much smaller Williston branch and other satellite locations.
There are no changes announced for Community College of Vermont, which has a Morrisville location and “has avoided many of the challenges brought on by COVID-19,” Spaulding said.
An estimated 500 employees will lose their jobs through the closures and consolidations, which would happen before the next school year.
The chancellor’s office will also be restructured and downsized.
“Our hearts are with the students, faculty and staff whose lives will be painfully impacted by this news and we will make every effort to ensure they are supported in the transition,” Spaulding said. “Every member of the (state college system) family, including tens of thousands of alumni, have made a lasting impact on the institutions and the state. Please know we will work tirelessly to maintain a (system) we can all be proud of now and for the future.”
Spaulding also cited “years of low state support and pricing competition from other colleges, over-capacity and aging residential facilities, and increased technological disruption of the higher education model” as other factors in his decision.
The system projects an operating deficit of $7 million to $10 million this fiscal year, including $5.6 million for student refunds for room and board due to moving students off-campus and shifting to remote instruction.
Spaulding calls the plan “a whole system transformation focused on eliminating program duplication, reducing overhead and investing in programs that are high-demand, economically viable, and provide high-demand career opportunities for Vermont students.”
The Vermont State Colleges System serves more than 11,000 students and provides continuing education for more than 9,000 adults.
Today’s announcement says students planning to attend Northern Vermont University in the fall will be “supported with a smooth transition to the consolidated Castleton University.”
“We know this represents more unwelcome change for students, employees and community members in an already stressful environment, but now, more than ever, we urge people to recognize this transformation is critical to a sustainable future for public higher education in Vermont,” Spaulding said. “Our economy will rebound and postsecondary education opens so many opportunities. And the (system) has been, and will continue to be, the main point of access to higher education for thousands of Vermonters each year.”