Colleges react to Green Mountain College closure

Posted

Note: This story was amended at 10:15 a.m. on Jan. 28, 2019.

Local colleges are considering ways to provide a "soft landing" for students displaced across the region.

Green Mountain College in Poultney announced Wednesday that it would close its doors in May due to declining enrollment, The Associated Press reported. College president Robert Allen said officials have worked over the last 18 months to find ways to increase enrollment, reduce costs and keep the campus open.

But they were unable to find a viable solution.

The closing of the campus comes as the college-age population declines in Vermont and New England. Several years ago, Green Mountain College had 775 students; it now has 428.

Data from the New England Commission of Higher Education identifies two colleges in Vermont have closed within about the last 19 years: Trinity College of Vermont and Burlington College, both in Burlington.

Trinity closed in 2000, while Burlington College closed in 2016.

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Green Mountain College has also reached agreements, which still require administrative approval, with seven other colleges to help students continue their educations, according to the AP.

Two of those colleges are in Vermont, neither are in Bennington County. But local colleges are aware of the decision.

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"We are following the story closely," said Bennington College President Mariko Silver in a statement. "If we have the opportunity to help their students, faculty, and staff, we will certainly do so."

A spokeswoman confirmed through email that the college has no formal agreement with Green Mountain College.

"These are challenging times for many colleges and universities, particularly but not only in the Northeast," Silver said in a statement.

In Bennington College's case, the college has experienced recent budgetary pressures, but its financial footing is "stronger than it has ever been," with enrollment up 18 percent over the past five years and endowment more than doubling over the last four years, according to the statement.

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Southern Vermont College also has no agreement with Green Mountain College, but is committed to providing additional opportunities for students from that college who choose to enroll at SVC, according to a statement from the college.

"Given the recent announcement of other institutions planning to close, the leadership team at Southern Vermont College is assessing ways in which we can provide a soft landing and smooth transitions for displaced or soon-to-be displaced students from across our region," according to the statement.

The college is saddened by the "disruption and loss" suffered by the community of Green Mountain College, said Daniel Summers II, vice president for enrollment management at Southern Vermont College, in an email. "Colleges like GMC and SVC are close communities of learning and support and the loss of any one of them is a real loss to higher education as a whole."

There are many challenges facing small colleges here in Vermont and all over the country, Summers said in an email.

"At SVC, we are aware and ever ready to face those challenges," he said in an email, in response to a question from the Banner. "SVC is working hard as we have always done to provide our students, faculty, staff and the surrounding community with the amazing opportunities that a small liberal arts college can provide."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at pleboeuf@benningtonbanner.com, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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