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Future of VSC campuses remains unclear after emergency board meeting

(WCAX)
Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 11:33 AM EDT
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The future of three Vermont State College campuses remains unclear after an emergency board meeting on Tuesday.

The Vermont Colleges System board of trustees did not vote on Tuesday on Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's recommendation to shut down Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center, as well as Northern Vermont University's Johnson and Lyndon campuses.

The board had decided on Sunday to delay the vote which was set for Monday. Now, the board says they will likely vote next week.

Board chair Churchill Hindes says Tuesday's meeting was a chance to hear from the public again before making a final decision. Trustees heard suggestions from the students and alumni who pleaded for them to keep the campuses open.

"Until you’ve taught a student and had them crying in your office, you will never understand what you’re going to be doing to this state and these students," said one woman.

Some people accused the board of ulterior motives and not being transparent with them.

"This leads me to believe that this is the perfect storm of events, leading to the merger of Lyndon and Johnson," one woman told trustees.

"You never thought to involve the people whose lives and future are at stake and this is extremely shameful especially for the legislators sitting on this board," said one man.

Others offered suggestions like renting out the campuses to other institutions that have students doing residencies. Spaulding liked that idea.

“I think that’s an example of the kind of creative thinking we need," he said.

Ultimately, Spaulding said he stood by his recommendation to shut the campuses down because of declining enrollments and a potential $10 million shortfall.

"We can’t afford the amount of money we’re losing and the campuses have a lot of expenditures that go with them and enrollment has not been growing as fast as the cost of it growing. So, it’s a heartbreaking situation," he said.

Spaulding says the sooner the board can make a decision, the better.

The closures affect about 2,000 students and 500 employees, primarily in the most economically challenged region of Vermont.

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