The uncertain future of Vermont schools


Kai Hemingway, Editor

As Covid-19 continues to spread across the United States, everyone is affected in some way. Vermont is no exception to this pandemic and its colleges are being hit hard.

Vermont’s status as a less populated, rural state, Vermont colleges and universities depend on the money that students bring in through tuition and other fees. With Covid-19 sending students home and colleges having to offer refunds to their students, that much needed money is no longer providing revenue to the colleges.

One of the most prominent victims of this phenomenon is Northern Vermont University. Both the Lyndon and Johnson campuses were scheduled to close their doors and have certain programs merge with Castleton University. Vermont College System Chancellor, Jeb Spaulding, later retracted that statement and is instead in the process of creating a new proposal to keep Vermont colleges afloat. 

The original plan would cut around 500 jobs in an effort to manage the financial fallout of Covid-19. Even with this proposed plan, Vermont colleges still need around 25 million dollars in order to avoid bankruptcy. With declining revenues for colleges, the price tag to continue operating is expected to climb more.

Many Vermonters weren’t happy about the proposal at all and took to the capital to protest. Cars drove in a parade in Montpelier and an online petition gathered over 30,000 signatures.

No plan has been truly set in stone yet, but Northern Vermont University reports that Spaulding and the VSCS Board of Trustees are currently working on a solution to come in the upcoming months.

On another hand, some Vermont colleges have had the looming threat of closure for years, with Covid-19 being the straw that broke the camel’s back. One such example is Marlboro College with their Windham campus in Windham county.

Over the years, Marlboro College has seen declining enrollment and can no longer continue to stay open on its own. There has been a plan for Marlboro to give its campus and 30 million endowment to Emerson College. In exchange, Emerson college would accept all Marlboro students and tenured staff onto its Boston campus.

Both schools are on the path to finalize the plan by July 1,2020. 

Colleges have the additional challenge of future students choosing other schools in order to avoid the looming threat of closure. Current students have also made the move to other universities in order to finish their degrees as well. Castleton University is one of the most prominent schools that displaced and future students are turning their sights to.

Though it is an unfortunate chain of events, not just Covid-19, for each of these schools, there is hope that at the end of the day, the students still receive their education and those employed at the schools still have a job. All Vermonters; legislators, administrators, educators, business owners, parents and students all have a challenge to continue the positive effects of higher education in Vermont.