Union Institute graduation. (Reformer file photo)
Union Institute graduation. (Reformer file photo)
Tuesday December 4, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Montpelier's loss is Brattleboro's gain.

On Monday, Union Institute & University announced it is closing its Montpelier operations and consolidating its Vermont footprint in Brattleboro.

The move, to be completed by June, comes as the four-year liberal arts school reduces its weekend residency programs and relies more on online classes. School spokeswoman Carolyn Krause said students currently enrolled in the Montpelier-based programs will be asked to transfer to Brattleboro or complete their course work online.

The Brattleboro location, at Joe Famolare's Vermont Agricultural Business Education Center on Old Guilford Road, is more centrally located and is more accessible to potential Union students than Montpelier, said Krause.

"As we've been looking at the (Montpelier programs) over the last few years, we've struggled with enrollment," she said.

Union bought the Montpelier campus from Vermont College in 2001, but several years ago Union sold the property to the Vermont College of Fine Arts and had been renting space there since then.

The Cincinnati-based school currently has two campuses in California, one in Florida and will go from two to one in Vermont. In addition to its offices at VABEC, Union has been renting space at the Marlboro College Graduate Center on Vernon Street. Krause said those offices will soon relocate to VABEC.

Krause said Union is excited to be consolidating its Vermont operations into one location.

"Brattleboro has been very friendly and very accommodating," she said. "Our experience there has always been very positive."

Krause said there will be no changes to the current offerings in Brattleboro.

"This will not affect those students in any way."

Union, which will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014, has been in Brattleboro since 2001.

Union offers three ways to achieve a degree in a variety of disciplines, which include: Bachelor's degrees in social work, leadership, early childhood studies, counseling psychology, business administration, criminal justice management, and environmental studies and sustainability. It also offers a Master of Arts degree and in Brattleboro it offers doctoral courses such as Doctor of Psychology with a concentration in Clinical Psychology.

Krause said the three delivery models are "colloquium," in which students travel to a fixed location several times a year, a three-day weekend option and an online option.

Currently, Union has 18 people in Montpelier and 30 in Brattleboro enrolled in the weekend option and 80 in the online option.

"As we transition the weekend folks in Montpelier, some will take part in the weekend option in Brattleboro and some will move to online," said Krause.

Between four and six Union employees will be moving to Brattleboro to support the increased operations there, she said.

There should be no impact on the faculty, added Krause.

Union Institute has also been closely following the news that the Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College will be coming to Brattleboro, occupying space in the soon-to-be rehabilitated Brooks House on Main Street.

"The more the merrier," said Krause. "It does create a nice synergy to have all that education together."

Bob Audette can be reached at raudette@reformer.com, or at 802-254-2311, ext. 160. Follow Bob on Twitter @audette.reformer.