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Students, alumni push back against proposed school closures

(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 19, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT
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There has been an aggressive push on social media to save the Vermont State College campuses that Chancellor Jeb Spaulding reccomended to close.

An online petition racked up more than 26,000 signatures in just a few days.

"I'm really frustrated and really blindsided," said NVU Johnson senior, Anais Dunton.

"I'm just shocked," said Issac Bernstein, a NVU Johnson junior.

"I feel really frustrated and disappointed with this news, said NVU Johnson junior, Joy Hurwitz.

Students making their voices heard, in a decision they had no part in.

"This place is really special to me, and it's special to a lot of people," said Berstein.

It's no secret the Vermont State College System has been struggling for years. Declining enrollment, fewer high school grads and little state funding support.

"That's been a problem for a long time, were a small state with high infrastructure costs and not that many people," said Peggy Williams, Lyndon State College President Emerita.

Lyndon State College President from 1989-1997, Peggy Williams is concerned students in the Northern part of the state will be left with no campus-based higher education options.

"Something had to change, but the urgency of this concerns me. I never would've though they would recommend closing Lyndon and Johnson," said Williams.

Due to room and board refunds, and COVID-19, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding says the schools were looking at a 7-10 million dollar deficit this year alone.

"It's going to be difficult for a lot of people, a lot of towns," said Meterologist Jim Cantore, a graduate of Lyndon State, Class of 1986.

Cantore credits his education as the reason he got the job at the Weather Channel more than 25 years ago. He worries how students would transition, and about the hundreds of faculty and staff who would lose their jobs. He fears is could cripple local economies.

The VSC system estimates both NVU campuses bring 113 million dollars into Northern Vermont and attract thousands of visitors each year.

"You're kind of shutting down sections of Vermont and that's the part I hope they see the bigger picture with," said Cantore. "It's heartbreaking, it's absolutely heartbreaking."

The Board of Trustees has delayed their vote on Chancellor Spaulding's recommendation, it is unclear if, or when another vote will take place.

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