Last 1st day at 3 Vermont colleges before a major merger

Published: Aug. 22, 2022 at 5:45 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 22, 2022 at 6:42 PM EDT
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RANDOLPH, Vt. (WCAX) - Monday was the last first day of classes for students at three Vermont schools that will become Vermont State University.

“Changes can be scary. Moving from something that you know and to something that you don’t... this new university technically does not exist,” said Perry Ragouzis, a Vermont State Colleges System student trustee.

The new Vermont State University is a consolidation of three public institutions. The unified university will welcome its inaugural class in the fall of 2023.

Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College are the schools that will become Vermont State University next year.

“Once we are unified under one name, under one institution, we will have the opportunity to create a student experience that really is kind of for the future, something that people aren’t seeing right now,” Ragouzis said.

The merger is in part an attempt to combine the schools’ finances after years of hardship.

“Part of the reason to merge is to pool our resources so that we can provide better services to students so that we can retain them. Better enrollment is not just recruiting new students, it’s also retaining,” said Parwinder Grewal, the inaugural president of Vermont State University.

After unification, the school says Vermont State University will be eligible for more federal funding.

The university president says the combination of savings from the merger plus the added federal cash could even lead to lower tuition costs.

“We are actually looking at maybe lowering their pay and doing creative things to lower their burden,” Grewal said.

The school says changing things up might be the answer to declining student enrollment.

“At the Castleton campus, enrollment is up and that’s, I think, partly because of the new marketing for Vermont State University,” Ragouzis said.

Although the move was met with some hesitation, students I spoke to say it has exciting prospects.

“I hear only lovely things, broader, more options for me, there’s no way it could be less, so we can’t go wrong,” said Benjamin Ball, a freshman at Vermont Technical College.

Vermont State University has already received initial accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education but officials say there’s still a lot of work to be done before next year to stay in compliance.

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