When Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College committed to moving to the Brooks House we were excited about the prospects that a downtown campus could provide for Brattleboro's future.
Our editorial board wrote about how the youthful energy intrinsic to a college campus would enhance the social and cultural scene in Brattleboro, not to mention the added sales for local businesses the students patronize. But more importantly, it would help establish the town as an educational hub for southern Vermont. This week's announcement that six area colleges signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Windham Higher Education Cooperative is another positive step in that direction. The cooperative will allow the colleges to share resources, provide more opportunities for their students, strengthen economic development in the region and create a more mutuallybeneficial relationship between the colleges and the community.
Under terms of the understanding students from CCV, Landmark College, Marlboro College, School for International Training, Union Institute and Vermont Technical College will be able to take up to one course at one of the other participating institutions each semester, beginning next fall. Not only would this enhance the educational offerings for students, but as Marlboro College President Ellen McCulloch-Lovell noted, it also could help control costs at the colleges.
"We can build on each other and not duplicate each other's efforts toward a more robust programming," she said. "We're all very cost conscious and we are trying to find ways to combine resources and not duplicate resources."
Or, as CCV President Joyce Judy put it, "You can think of six colleges competing or you can think of us holistically being better able to serve this part of the region. We've chosen to do it collaboratively."
Speaking of collaboration, the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation is doing its part by helping to strengthen the connection between the colleges and the business community. Thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Labor, the organization recently hired a new internship coordinator who will work with the colleges, and with area employers, to find paid internships for the students enrolled in the six area colleges.
"This is so important in terms of putting our students in the work place, and educating the employers about the tremendous asset we have in this county in terms of smart, capable learners and workers," said Landmark College President Peter Eden.
Having this connection with the local business community will also open doors for the students and entice them to remain in the area after graduation, thus stemming the loss of a young, highly-educated work force. That, in turn, could encourage more businesses to move to the Windham County area with good, high-paying jobs.
We see no downside here.