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Plans to consolidate Vermont State Colleges move forward

Published: Feb. 22, 2021 at 4:29 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2021 at 5:19 AM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont State Colleges System Board of Trustees voted Monday to go forward with a plan to merge Northern Vermont University, Vermont Technical College, and Castleton University.

Monday’s meeting took almost three hours as the trustees listened to consultants explaining why this is the correct move to make. In the end, they voted unanimously to move forward.

But there are any lingering concerns including preserving the branding and integrity of each individual school. “How do we transition to this system but maintain the individuality of the campuses and the schools because there is certainly value there,” said DFR Commissioner Michael Pieciak.

Consultants hired by the state agreed with preserving that brandinid it will not be an easy process. “You are clearly -- as a board -- in for a lot of tough decisions,” said Brian Prescott with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems.

Linda Milne, a 15-year veteran on the board questioned the board’s accountability for past decisions. “How are we going to be better at accountability this time than we have been in the past -- because it has not been a strong suit,” Milne said.

For the fiscal year 2022, VSCS is seeking $67.4 million including the base appropriation, an increase in base funding, funding to address structural deficits, plus $8 million in transformation expenses.

The board needs $20 million over four years from the state, which many trustees questioned since it is not a confirmed deal every year.

VSCS Chancellor Sophie Zdatny is very positive the funding will be there. “We are quite optimistic. It’s been very well received in the Statehouse. We’re working closely with legislative leaders. We are very much a topic of conversation,” Zdatny said.

One question brought up was what would happen if the schools are not consolidated? Prescott said without the merger, it would lead to closing three campuses as was previously suggested and turned down.

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