Vermont State Colleges Board Advances Merger Plan

The Vermont State Colleges System will advance with a plan to merge three residential colleges under one accreditation after a vote yesterday by its Board of Trustees.

Under the plan, Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College will unify under a common accreditation in the 2023-24 academic year. The Community College of Vermont will remain a separate institution.

The system will seek administrative consolidation. Following the merger, plans call for each of the two remaining institutions to have a president reporting to the system chancellor. The Board of Trustees would oversee the chancellor, presidents and two different institutions.

“I want to be clear that the Board is committed to maintaining our current campus locations,” Lynn Dickinson, the chair of the Board of Trustees, said in a statement. “In future years, the configuration of the campuses might look a little different as we work to update our physical footprint to help bring system costs down, but we are committed to doing so in a way that keeps our current campus locations open.”

Yet to be determined are the name of the unified institution and how it might include different campus brands and traditions.

The board’s decision comes after long-standing questions surrounding the system’s future amid concerns about budgets, enrollment and demographic pressures in the Northeast. The system already merged Lyndon State College and Johnson State College to create the institution now known as Northern Vermont University in 2018.

The former system chancellor, Jeb Spaulding, last spring recommended closing several campuses due to budget pressures, only to resign amid blowback. Then a set of recommendations issued in December called for changes mirroring those approved yesterday.

The system will use the experience of past consolidations and “carefully consider any change that affects employees,” according to the news release about the board’s approval vote yesterday.

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