Vermont may close three of its state college campuses to address a potential 20 percent drop in enrollment and millions in losses related to the coronavirus pandemic.
The radical restructuring would close the Northern Vermont University campuses in Lyndon and Johnson, shifting programs to Castleton University.
It would also shutter the Vermont Technical College campus in Randolph Center, moving operations to that school’s Williston campus.
Approximately 500 people would lose their jobs under the plan, which would deliver harsh economic blows to the communities affected.
Jeb Spaulding, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges System, said the “very painful decisions” were necessary to preserve the system in the face of huge losses.
“We are in truly unprecedented times like nothing we have ever experienced before in our lifetimes and we know the impacts of COVID-19 will linger for months, maybe years,” Spaulding said in a press release. “We cannot wait and hope for recovery, we must act decisively to chart a course toward long-term viability. That is our ultimate goal. We owe it to our students, faculty, staff and state.”
The system projects an operating deficit of up to $10 million this fiscal year and up to $12 million next year.
The state colleges were already stressed by the state’s aging demographics, low levels of state support and price competition from other colleges before the pandemic, Spaulding said in the release.
“Our hearts are with the students, faculty and staff whose lives will be painfully impacted by this news and we will make every effort to ensure they are supported in the transition,” Spaulding continued. “Every member of the VSCS family, including tens of thousands of alumni, have made a lasting impact on the institutions and the state. Please know we will work tirelessly to maintain a VSCS we can all be proud of now and for the future.”
Gov. Phil Scott called the news “tremendously unfortunate.”
“The State Colleges System was fragile before the coronavirus, and this hasn’t made it any easier in terms of the financial aspects,” Scott said.
Details of the restructuring were expected to be presented at a Monday meeting to the system’s board of trustees.