MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) WCAX News has learned that three Vermont college campuses will likely close.
Northern Vermont University-- Johnson and NVU Lyndon-- would shut down under the plan. So would the Vermont Technical College in Randolph.
The Vermont State Colleges System was already in financial trouble from declining enrollment, revenues and competition. And then the pandemic happened and more than $5 million was reimbursed to students for room and board and moving to remote instruction.
Chancellor Jeb Spaulding said the schools were looking at a $7-$10 million deficit this year alone.
The closures affect about 2,000 students and 500 employees, primarily in the most economically challenged region of Vermont.
"It's going to be a gut punch to the NEK, a lot of lives upended. But taking no action was likely to put many more jobs in jeopardy and eliminated VTS access to secondary ed that they need," Spaulding said.
The Community College of Vermont remains.
The plan calls for moving NVU programs to Castleton University. Students could go there for the same tuition.
VSC will also work with other schools on transfers.
VTC will consolidate into its Williston location.
REACTION TO SCHOOLS ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK
"First reaction was like a knife stuck in your heart. That college has been the community's heritage for over a century," said Eric Osgood, the chair of the Johnson select board.
Osgood says right now, the town has no contingency plan if NVU-Johnson closes its doors. They thought they may lose a few small businesses in town during the pandemic but didn't expect to lose the engine of this town's economy.
"To think that we're going to lose our college and the economic impact of that, that's on a scale we never even envisioned," Osgood said.
"It's kind of disheartening," said Patrick Wickstrom, a sophomore at NVU-Lyndon.
Wickstrom worries about the economic impact on the entire Northeast Kingdom.
"I go into our downtown and I get my hair cut, I buy groceries, we support that local economy and they rely on us," he said.
He started a petition calling on state leaders to help the Vermont State Colleges System and provide more funding to the schools.
Eric Berry, a Lyndon grad and business owner in the town, agrees closing NVU would destroy the Kingdom's economy.
"Several already have lost their jobs because of COVID-19 now, in the cloud that is COVID-19, we're just going to let this decision be made behind closed doors? I mean, someone has to step in on the state level and put an end to this," Berry said.
The three college campuses will be closed if trustees say yes. That's likely on Monday.