Draft Vision for a Unified VT State College System 102220

Problem Statement: As is, the current constellation of Vermont’s four State Colleges(VSC) is financially, pedagogically, and demographically unsustainable. What has changed?

  • The sheer financial burden of tenured and administrative personnel and physical infrastructure (actual and deferred maintenance) is overwhelming the traditional college business model.
  • The value equation: Even with college-tuition discounting, the market has come to doubt the value of spending $30 – $75,000 a year for an undergraduate degree. America’s students currently carry $1.5T in educational debt. Among the competitors to traditional higher ed are fast-growing businesses offering low or no-cost educational alternatives tied to employment opportunity and growth.
  • The educational goals of students have been in transition from traditional liberal arts curricula towards more dynamic and segmented learning related to current or future employment goals, personal interests, and the certainty of more frequent career changes.
  • The traditional learning methodology of lectures, note-taking, labs, and exams is less appealing to a new generation of students who seek engagement, experience, and internships as they learn.
  • Demography: population declines nationally and in-state (VT. El-Hi population declined from 120-88,000 in the last three decades.) Expanding college to life-long learning will offset the demographic decline in traditional 4-year students.

Impediments to change:

  • The employees of VSC and the communities in which they reside have a vested interest in maintaining the system as it is.
  • Professional unions will reflexively resists any changes that materially affect their members, rallying their membership to exert legislative and public relations influence to defend the status quo, even though co-engineering a sustainable institution might secure future employment.
  • Any change is going to require the championship of the Executive branch and the support of the Legislative branch, as well as the acquiescence of the Judicial branch. The Governor will need to articulate and support a conceptual vision for sustainable change. The Legislature will then have to follow up with statutory process changes, as it does not have nor will not have, the revenues to fund the expanding deficits produced by the current VSC system. Without some form of reinvention, these will only increase, collapsing the entire system. The vision will also have to be designed to survive the inevitable judicial challenges.

A Vision for Change:

  1. Consolidate the VSC system into one administrative core, centralizing:

Executive team

Governance (Trustees)

Marketing/Public relations,




Human Resources

Maintenance, Buildings & Grounds

Legislative liaison

IT / Data management


II. Design rationale and open questions:

  1. With a front-and-center goal in mind of “’meeting learners where they are” the new system will need to support a new understanding of “learner.” As a pioneer here, CCV’s experience will help inform the new system’s design. Today’s students may be:
  • of any age (qualified for entry)
  • residential or non-residential,
  • employed or unemployed
  • indigenous, refugee, or other new-American
  • abled or disabled
  • single or coupled parents,
  • non-English speaking
  • continuous or sporadic
  • III. The new design will need to grapple with the issue of tuition cost, which could be:
  • fixed with no discounting but scholarships
  • fixed with discounting (means-tested)
  • tuition-free (government / philanthropic funding)
  1. The curricular design below anticipates significant financial value to Vermont’s state budget as well as to Vermont’s broader economy as an alternate problem-solving and research resource that marshals faculty, business and nonprofit leaders, and students to research and suggest practical and strategic solutions to Vermont’s challenges, consistent with each institution’s specific course of study. This design anticipates frequent and sustained partnerships with business and nonprofit organizations, both to assess and solve problems and to create engaged learning opportunities.
  2. The spectrum of curricula at the four campuses anticipates significant flexibility for learners in choosing their course of studies. By way of example, a student might begin college at CCV (Winooski/Montpelier and CCV satellite campuses)  (with or without a high school degree ?), be assessed there for their college readiness, take any needed remedial courses, advance the process of learning to learn (ex. ESL), determine their future course of college study, and then move on to one of the satellite campuses to pursue their major/minor elections.
  3. The four remaining campuses, Johnson, Lyndon, Castleton, and Randolph, will each have a specific educational mission, derived from Vermont’s dominant strategic challenges. This will engage learners in real-world challenges and prepare them for careers by participating in problem analysis and solution development in all three economic sectors (government, business & nonprofit). During their college career (or lifetime). a student may spend time on one or more campuses depending on their educational and career goals. A student may start at CCV, do a year at Johnson and then graduate from the system having spent the lion’s share of their career in healthcare (Castleton).
  4. Redundant building infrastructure would either be sold or net-leased to a developer for affordable community housing within a life-long learning community.


CCV: Public Education and the glidepath into college:

  • Reimagine the transition from public schools (El-Hi) to college, (is the high school senior year an expensive waste at $100+M a year? Are there better skills-based transition criteria?) does the traditional hierarchy of public education now impede learning? (day care, nursery school, kindergarten, primary grades, middle grades, junior high, high school?) do we need to redefine the continuum of public education from birth through retirement?
  • Listen, understand, and articulate the expressed needs and capacities of learners of all ages and reinvent education more cost-efficiently in a new world, offering an education in which a broad array of previously ignored learners can participate, especially in an increasingly diverse world of language, culture, and needs.
  • Ensure that all learners are informed of the full range of educational and career options and opportunities.
  • Ensure that all students are exposed to financial, media, and civic literacy courses.
  • Continue to analyze and refine effective distance-learning and advocate for broadband ubiquity.

The following curricular assignment is based on current areas of educational expertise at each existing college or university.

Lyndon: Vermont: Civic Systems and Infrastructure Policy:

  • affordable housing and design: energy efficiency, various co-housing models, community gardens, shared-equity housing
  • advanced media production and literacy (journalism), civics (participatory democracy),
  • financial literacy (personal and organizational financial management),
  • criminal justice, policing, restorative justice, and corrections careers and reform, including a pathway to re-entry for offenders (i.e. Bard College, Roger Williams Univ.)
  • training for careers in non-profit sector with mission outcomes measurement and governance,
  • New-American/refugee resettlement orientation center and ESL in partnership with business community.

Castleton: Vermont: Health and Well-being:

  • healthcare – explore strategies to move investments upstream toward prevention from reactive treatment, (partner with Rutland Hospital)
  • chronic disease management and prevention
  • train healthcare professionals in primary care, nursing, ALS (advance life support), paramedic, and EMT
  • train child and elder care givers
  • mental health counselling (master’s degree in social work(MSW), psych) trauma-informed counselling and early childhood intervention with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)
  • explore policies to expanding access and coverage, role of community clinics, manage costs, advance telemedicine, and community wellness,
  • explore role of diet and lifestyle

Randolph: Vermont: The Working and Recreational Landscape:

  • regenerative agriculture,
  • a future model for sustainable dairy (fluid milk, yogurt, ice cream, cheese)
  • sustainable extraction practice for forestry, stone (quarrying), water resource and wildlife management,
  • meteorology (move from Lyndon), climate change tracking and prediction, air and water quality monitoring and mitigation,
  • reduce dependence on fossil fuels: green energy production and distribution, weatherization, home-heating/cooling alternatives, and renewable resources,
  • hospitality training, recreational facility design and stewardship,
  • public-private transportation policy and systems design,


Johnson: Vermont: Sense and Spirit of Place:

arts and humanities

dance, drama, and performing arts

music composition and performance

writing and publishing

film-making (digital storytelling)

graphic and visual arts

history, sense of place, and native cultures

literature, philosophy, and religion



Comments are closed.