Vermont State Colleges board poised to consider consolidation plan

Published: Feb. 16, 2021 at 5:57 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 17, 2021 at 5:33 AM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - A proposal to salvage the cash-strapped Vermont State College System by consolidating three of the four schools is on the agenda this week. But some critics of the plan say the plan will actually turn away potential students.

The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees’ in December approved a five-year plan that calls for merging Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College, while leaving the Community College of Vermont as a standalone institution.

VSCS Chancellor Sophie Zdatny supports the plan, saying it will benefit students by giving them more access to faculty and courses regardless of location. “As we think about transformation we think about what’s best for students and the state of Vermont,” Zdatny said.

While the consolidation plan instills fear of closures for some, Zdatny says the proposal is very clear about avoiding closures and maintaining all current physical campuses. “People have colloquially been saying Vermont State University as a place holder name for the combined entity and it could possibly be Vermont State University at Castleton, at Johnson, at Lyndon,” she said.

But Lyle Jepson with the Chamber & Economic Development of the Rutland Region worries the changes will dilute Castleton’s brand. “The branding has worked. The outreach has worked. We want to make sure that continues,” he said. Jepson says Castleton has programs, like nursing and hospitality that highly benefit the Rutland Region and that going through with the proposed changes could hurt the area’s economy.

Zdatny says merging the schools would save about $5 million each year over five years. That, combined with another $20 million in state funding is a key element of the plan

The systems board of trustees has a meeting Monday to discuss the proposal further. All written comments much be submitted by Wednesday at noon.

There is also a Zoom meeting Tuesday night at 6 p.m. for the public to weigh in. Sign up at this link to speak.

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