IDEA BANK: Future of the Vermont State College System

15 May 2020


The Office of the Speaker is hosting an "Idea Bank" for the future of the Vermont State College System. This effort leverages the collective knowledge and creativity of Vermonters while providing a database to organize submitted ideas. Those that have been submitted, thus far, have been organized into broad categories, which will be continually updated as feedback is received. If you would like to contribute your own thoughts to the Idea Bank, please email them to your Vermont State Representative. 

Programming and Partnerships

· ​All VSC should not overlap majors; VTC could include job oriented, welding, electricians and building etc. with changing from one trade to another w/o penalty; VTC could consolidate all courses to Randolph; all VSC students should be proficient in reading/writing/spelling for graduation 

· We have a severe and ongoing shortage of health care providers at all nursing care levels, as evidenced during the COVID-19 crisis. If we used CARES Act funding to response to the shortage via underwriting expansion of the VSC nursing programs to create free access (in exchange for years of service in Vermont) to nursing education we could kill multiple birds: health care workforce development; opportunities for VT kids; addressing our demographic crisis by bring more students into the state; and pumping resources into VSC including expanded demand for campus housing.

· Create a partnership between VSCs and Ski Areas. Vermont Ski Areas have tens of thousands of families from all over the Eastern North America vacation there each year. They can help VSCs meet their admissions goals through in-house TV messages, posters with rip-off postcards at each area, meet-and-greet college events hosted at ski areas, and a Discover VSC weekend for skiing and visiting college campuses on the way home. VSC could become nationally known for being the best place to create graduates who are skilled employees of ski resorts throughout the country, and be a pipeline from college into careers at these resorts. It would be a win, win for the VSCS and Vermont's ski resorts.

· I would like to suggest the schools create business incubators, allowing qualified entrepreneurs to live on campus and use the facilities and faculty to develop and implement their plans. My initial thought was that this be offered free of charge, with the stipulation that the business being developed be located in state. However, given the financial crisis, I would instead suggest that they pay a small stipend in exchange for housing and access. Candidates for the program would need to be vetted and their business plans approved prior to entering the program - this is not a crash pad for people who don't know what to do with themselves.

· We chose to move here for the natural beauty surrounding us, but we also did not want to be too far from an institute of higher learning which adds thoughtful people to towns: teachers, graduates, and current students. Some graduates of NVU have become excellent community leaders like our town clerk and a select board member. We attended a few Nature related classes at NVU that were open to locals and we attended a VSO performance held in Dibden. Perhaps the school should try harder to connect with local people for sharing knowledge and culture in many different ways. Perhaps locals could connect in ways that assist the school to some degree.

· We need local trades programming - no reason VTC couldn't become such a place for Vermonters and others looking for those programs. I have 3 points: 1.) It is no secret that the VSC system has been struggling for awhile, despite the recent announcement that cites "to address fiscal challenges exacerbated by COVID-19". It has been clear for several years that on line learning is growing rapidly, however I am not clear that the VSC system has capitalized on that opportunity. Has the online programming grown to attract the ever increasing base of on line learners? 2.) Local grassroots partnerships: I have tried to partner with NVU over the past couple of years to create a 'win win' opportunity for both NVU and for an entire statewide system that needs college graduates. I submitted a proposal that would have built a pipeline for my employees to go to the VSC system for courses, which in turn would further their career opportunities. My proposal was not embraced, despite some obvious gains. If you decide to cut costs or consolidate, make sure whoever is left in a leadership position carries out the values of Vermont, and the majority of its people, not just those represented in the more densely populated regions. There are gains to be made on partnering with VT business to get students into VSC classes, and to get more college graduates in the workforce. Make sure your leaders are open to entrepreneurial ideas and partnerships, and have no personal agendas of their own. 3.) VSC stands to gain greatly by building trade school degree & certificate programs. VTC could transform into Vermont Tech and Trades Center (VTTC), and could partner with the several local tech centers to link high school seniors in local tech centers to move directly into VTC programs. Even if these programs are only 6 month or 12 month programs, that is new business and diversifies the student and program base. Please ensure a thoughtful, thorough process is taken before closing any of the VSC campuses. If the financial situation is so dire that campuses must be closed before a thoughtful, thorough process can take place, one must wonder why the leadership allowed things to get that bad before acting sooner? There are opportunities to diversity programming and partner with VT business to grow our workforce while creating thriving campuses at all existing VSC locations.


· Consider the role of businesses investing in the system as part of their own workforce development.

· Reduce program offerings consolidating on 21st century programs that are of need and of interest to a broader range of students.

· Have designated campuses to address different opportunities - Lyndon (media, meteorology, outdoor rec/hospitality); VTC (agriculture, engineering, nursing); Johnson (focus on life long learners, arts

· Create a certificate program, and have employers interview people for jobs after being certified. Could also start in senior year of high school, not everyone wants to go to collage. Could tap into people on welfare, they need to do a trade, have daycare for them. It’s a way to help get people off the system. They will need busing.

· Scrutinize every program at each institution for duplication, relevance, and return on investment, with a commitment to cut those that don’t make the grade

· Investigate adding new programs across various locations to balance and grow enrollment in identified programs that meet the workforce needs of the 21st Century and beyond

· Convert President's House at NVU-Lyndon to a bed and breakfast. Use hotel management students to develop proposal, execute plan, and staff facility.

· The meteorology program that is currently located at the Lyndon campus needs to be preserved is a nationally recognized program and it along with a journalism program have educated many folks from both instate and out of state.

· Continue existing programming as is; don't try to do restructuring during this fragile time. Restructuring must be considered carefully and not rushed, and implemented no sooner than 2021-2022 academic year.

· Offer accredited college courses via partnerships in the community; ex: arts, farming, etc. These partnerships could be used to leverage funding through USDA, endowment for the arts, and other such professional organizations. There could also be debt relief programs for students choosing to work in the state after graduation.

· Place businesses right on campus, and do workforce training that prepares people to work for those businesses. The partnerships would take some of the burden off the cost of running the colleges. Create a task force to reach out to everything from local businesses to fortune 500s, and see where there may be interest. A model is the Hazelton Betty Ford Recovery Program, which has a graduate school of addiction studies as a partner.

· Expand dual enrollment opportunities in local high schools, for early college and also during the summer

· Have a program for people to gain expertise on local music, flora, fauna, etc., and be ambassadors to Vermont for people from other states. This would benefit both Vermonts and its visitors, and would prepare these individuals to be ideal hosts, opening up their homes through airbnb or similar programs. The schools could be teachers of all that is special about Vermont. This will allow NVU to keep up with 21st century trends. Having been at large state schools, NVU is the perfect size.

· Earning a diploma does not have to the only goal– offer more professional certificate programs. Develop programs that specifically meet workforce needs. Focus on the commuter population, including more schedule flexibility Strengthen on -line learning offerings Strengthen offerings to High Schools – enhance the practice of HS Seniors starting their college career early Move to tri mester calendar or one that would be easier for someone with a full-time job could more easily handle

· Attract more students: Are these colleges offering majors that are forward-thinking, oriented to careers that will be greatly needed in the future (e.g., pre-med, solar engineering, wind engineering, dentistry, public health). In other words, look for professions for which shortages are anticipated as boomers retire as well as emerging career paths. And re-evaluate the marketing strategies and grant structures that incentivize Vermonters to stay in-state for their college education.

Campus Spaces

· Co-locate some state functions (and employees) to the campuses, at least Johnson, Lyndon. Thus the buildings become-in part-the responsibility of BGS

· Bring CCV onto each campus; Move CCV operations from St. Johnsbury to NVU Lyndon campus; Move Morrisville CCV onto Johnson campus

· Create high tech classrooms to access classes at other campuses; alternate semester long programs from campus to campus - the professor travels); multi-use campuses that include community and business opportunities

· Turn some of the dorms into senior housing. Senior housing is in demand. They would be able to access the cafeteria, gym and libraries for an additional fee of course. This would be fulltime year round guaranteed money for the colleges. Offer some classes for them..If you build it they will come.....


· Ask VHCB or Rural Edge to evaluate converting under utilized dorm or classroom space at NVU Lyndon to affordable family housing. Create child care center on campus. Use early childhood education students in formation, running, and staffing.

· Evaluate converting underutilized classroom space to rental office space or co working area.

· During legislative sessions, you experience the challenges of our State's geography. On-line meetings, classes and learning will never fully replace in-person instruction. During this time of crisis, we recognize how "zoom meetings' are only temporary solutions, and will never replace human contact in education or in governing. Therefore geographically balanced campuses for VSC must be maintained.

· I am very adverse to closing the VTC campus in Randolph. If there is any consolidation of VTC to be done it should not be consolidated into Williston. I imagine that a good deal of $$ has been spent to create the dental hygiene program in Williston that would be costly to move to Randolph.....keep Dental Hygiene on it’s own within the CCV footprint in Williston?? We do NOT need another college in Chittenden County and we do need to provide affordable housing for students in the VSC system which is available at the VTC Randolph site now. The VTC nursing program has dispersed throughout the state and even into NH, but it does need an anchor point somewhere and that should stay in central Vermont at the existing VTC campus in Randolph. If there is a possibility of combining even more of the 2 northern campuses into one then that would be acceptable

· As planning and thinking focused on revitalizing these colleges goes forward I hope that in the mix are ideas about privatizing segments of the schools and co-locating other entities on each campus. For example, could a private company take over operations of the Shape Centers which already serve students and the community. Can portions of the college serve as meeting or training center with residential capacity. I know that NVU in Johnson serves as such for a ballet company in the summer.

· Consolidate Lyndon campus onto the Johnson campus

· College-linked retirement communities are apparently growing in popularity. The appeal is an opportunity to participate in life-long learning and to have access to amenities such as libraries, lectures, exhibits, sporting events, and pools, and gyms. Using portions of our gorgeous campus as senior housing might provide our colleges with an additional source of revenue in the face of limited state funding. Retirees also pay taxes and spend money in their local communities. We know that Vermont has an aging population and a dwindling school-age population, so this might be a natural fit. I realize it might be difficult to find public or private funding for new buildings, but do we have underutilized dorms that could be repurposed into attractive senior housing? Here are some links:;

· Become energy self-sufficient: Both Johnson and Lyndon are on hills (not sure about VTC). Is it possible to use wind and solar energy to have the campuses be self sufficient, energy-wise, and thus eliminate utility costs? Could this even perhaps be a student project for students somewhere in the states college system (e.g., engineering majors)?

· Use the extra spaces on campus to exchange affordable housing and food for people working on marketing and outreach for the colleges.

· Create recreation partnerships between the trails, pools, and rec centers on campus and the community. This will benefit the campuses financially, benefit the community's health, and strengthen community/campus partnerships.

· Focus on the core strengths of each campus, Look at where changes can be made through out the VSC system – including CCV - could it be rolled into the Johnson campus

· Use campus spaces in innovative ways. Have a spa? A rehab center? Etc

· Use the space on the Johnson campus for the morrisville CCV or for a Dr's office

· Develop ideas for generating new revenue streams: Campuses are used for concerts; can this be done more often, with groups that would attract a wider audience? Can some of them be fund-raising events and promoted as such among alumni as well as the general public? Are campuses/dorms used in the summer months? Some colleges rent out dorm rooms for vacationers who want a less expensive place to stay than a hotel would charge. Or maybe educational summer camps for youth or AP classes for juniors and seniors? Are there buildings on campus that could be rented out?


· Tout the beautiful views from the campus. We are connected with seven colleges and three high schools, none of which has views as grand as NVU-Johnson. 

· Increase promotion of NVU to out of state students that benefit from Good Neighbor discount policy

· Immediately address fallout from negative press reports

· Not wanting to sound opportunistic, If I were a parent of a, to be, college student in NY, Ct, NJ. Mass, I would be looking for a SAFE place to sent my child to college. Caledonia, Lamoille and Orange counties qualify. We should be sure that the public in the sounding states know that our State Colleges will be open for the fall semester, and that it is a safe place to send your child to school.

· Collaborate State tourism marketing offices with VSC marketing- for example use the State's winter & summer recreational benefits to promote both students and tourists, as well as new residents; Consider novel ideas to gain more students- provide top 5% of Vt. high school students with discounted tuition; Collaborate community and academia to advance and maintain higher education; Expand business-academic ties across the entire State and even across State lines; Strengthen ties between high schools and VSCs by providing bi-annual on-site visit opportunities to every VSC campus for every student at every Vermont HS. With collaboration comes new ideas and expanded partnerships. With strong leadership comes untold opportunity. With opportunity comes a bright future for every Vermonter: students, businesspersons, the employed, the retired, families and the forgotten.

· Create a new marketing campaign to get more students interested in state colleges. Market that no matter where you go to college, you get back what you put in. At a state school, that may be more "bang for the buck" and we should market that. Create a task force of local volunteers to talk to our in-state, high-school students making college decisions, and recruit them. Market to students, parents, and guidance counselors the importance of making a decision to attend a state school and take on less or no college debt - rather than telling young people debt doesn't matter and having them regret it the rest of their life.

· The community needs to take more ownership and be more involved and connected to the colleges. We've taken them for granted, now we need to step up. One example would be for the ski resorts to give discounts to students to incentivize them to come to school here. Also open to the idea of raising taxes to fund the colleges.

· Lower tuition, to make it possible to recruit more VT students. We have high HS graduation rates and low college attendance rates.

VSCS Administration

· There should be a protocol in place that when a UVM applicant does not get accepted, there be an automatic acceptance to any of the VSC programs. These overflow admissions to UVM could then be given a pathway to UVM degrees or may choose to stay at the satellite campuses. Apparently, there already are some pathways to UVM degrees set up through UVM's articulation agreements with CCV and VTC. UVM has a number of pathways (25 with CCV alone) where you can do two years at VTC or CCV, and with good enough grades, matriculate directly into UVM degree programs. The four year graduation rates for those students is very high -in the 90% range. Some of the issues with providing direct acceptance from UVM applicants to the VSC likely has to do with accreditation issues. The UVM provost may be willing to talk more about this.

· Have an umbrella system including UVM (one board, one president, one system, use expertise to designate use of campuses)

· Combine the state colleges with UVM. The state colleges would be other campuses of the university. This is not a new idea but perhaps a practical one.

· Take another look at leadership and administration with an eye towards further consolidation and/or change

· Investigate partnerships with Vermont businesses to create internships and a pathway to permanent employment to retain Vermont workers

· Emphasize majors that directly solve problems we have in Vermont, such as emergency planning and communications, as well as drug rehab + addiction.

· Disperse the central office so that it is decentralized and located at the different campuses.

· Eliminate the role of chancellor and have a rotating counsel of college presidents

· The opportunity is the Chancellors role and office could centralize all VSC businesses/financial aid/ and physical plant operations. The sponsored program and grant funding operations could all be moved to this office. Including varsity athletic support could be centralized. Consider having one Athletic Directors office working out of a central location. This may mean on one hand downsizing staff and on the other investing in the IT infrastructure. For to support would require an uptick in remote interactions taking place to support the local campus operations. The chancellors role could be come one of Chief Financial Officer with a Chief Operating Office both reporting directly to the Board. Academics could be guided by one Chief Academic Dean - supporting curriculum throughout the VSC system - to ensure relevance, educational value, while ensuring there is no duplication of curriculum. It just not sustainable for these campuses to be all things to all people

Funding and Tuition

· The VSC's invest in people and provide for graduates to come an stay in Vermont to live and work. The VT government has failed to provide adequate funding to our state colleges for many years. Vt ranks, I think, 50th in the country in funding the state colleges. Our in state and out of state tuition are the among the highest if not the highest in the country. The best idea I can offer is for the legislature to vote in funding that will support the VSC system to at least the level that our neighboring states provide to their college system. The amount of money (estimates of 4 million now and up to 25 million for the future) can be found in the current state budget and future budgets. The cost of not doing this far out weighs the cost to VT of closing these NVU and moving VT Tech. If Covid is driving financial impacts, VT should be able to appropriate some of the 1.2 billion for help the VSC system now, or use 1.2 billion for hospitals and use funds for the VSC. Create a trust with Covid funds and in combination with adequate state funding will ensure that we have a viable state college system well into the future. 

· The modern higher education system prioritizes profit over positive student outcomes.The rush to get students into dorms where they pay huge rent has resulted in a free for all party atmosphere at many colleges and universities that is not conducive to scholarly thought, and in fact has led to a national sexual assault crisis. While I was employed at UCONN we had a statistic of 50% of women being sexually assaulted as students during their tenure. This is simply not acceptable. We must ensure that college is a place where young people have their lives enriched and that we aren't subsidizing the creation of a cadre of traumatized people.

· The modern higher education system takes advantage of it's employees in the name of profit. Any substantial state aid should mandate that environmental, food, and transportation services work not be contracted out to third parties that devalue their workers, but rather be institution positions with benefits that include health care and access to institution resources. If this state is to bail out the state colleges in the name of job preservation, we must lift up the common man at the same time as the professors.

· Solution: Reduce the 2020/2021 financial risk to attend a VSC school. Offer all qualified accepted students a phased approach to financial aid awards. Year 1: make it no cost or extremely low-cost (tuition and room/board); in Years 2 to 4, go back to a more typical financial aid offering that requires students to have some skin in the game. If we can hook students for 2020 by making it a risk free year, can we increase the odds that they stay for the remaining three years. Other alternatives to lower cost/risk: If a student will commit to VSC, match their best net cost offer. Or, set aside a bonus (tuition reimbursement) if a student successfully graduates at the end of 4 years. Based on this situation: High school seniors are making college commitments now.

· Acceptance deadlines are usually May 1st, but many colleges are extending until June due to Covid. VSC has a limited time window to convince Vermont seniors to stay in Vermont this fall, but…. Confidence in VSC’s future is so low, presenting a risk many seniors will not want to take. They are opting for out of state colleges. Lots of uncertainty about how all colleges will operate in the fall. The risk of attending an out of state college if a second wave of pandemic occurs in September/October is concerning (how might quarantine restrictions impact the ability of students to return home and then go back to out of state schools? What if a student gets sick? What if a family member at home gets sick?).


· Incentive Plans: A Vermont high school student selects and is accepted to a state community college (exclude UVM) student (4-year degrees) completes 3 years, in good academic standing, the state of Vermont pays the 4th year: 

  1. student – (first in Family – 4 years) selects and is accepted to a state community college (exclude UVM) completes 2 years academic standing and maintains academic standing for the remaining 2 years the state pays the last 2 years

  2. student (2-year degree) completes 1-1/2 year in good academic, states pays last semester

  3. tuition would be fixed for what ever term of attendance (Perdue and other top colleges do this)

  4. create a low fixed interest rate run by the state, student/family must pay a monthly minimum payment (even $10-20) creates a mental state of awareness, they must pay more for a cell phone or other expense

In addition to "Funding Plans" outlined above, Revenue Source Solutions:

  1. Tax political contributions to a candidate, party or group, same as sales tax, cig tax, liquor tax

  2. Need to increase the tax base of who pays by having nonprofits pay some tax (many examples of large corporations who pay no tax in Vermont, and others.

  3. Pass legislation for retail cannabis sales and dedicate a large percentage to college education, just like lottery funding going to education

· Increase state funding and reduce tuition rates, and reduce program offerings consolidating on 21st century programs that are of need and of interest to a broader range of students - state schools should be affordable. They cannot be all things to all people though.

· Instate tuition should be offered for any graduate of any Vermont High School, regardless of their state of residence now. This could offer adults who want to come back to VT, or start over after COvid, or take a new career path, or finish a degree they started before a cost effective way to do that. It could bolster our enrollment, bring young families back to VT.

· Develop a lottery ticket with prizes of scholarships going to Vermont high schools to be awarded to bright needy students.

· Moth ball VEGI (new jobs are not being created now anyway), use funds toward state college, with the understanding the VSCS umbrella will also be shutting down to enhance savings. As the economy recovers, slowly bring back VEGI.


· Create a legal, recreational marijuana market in VT. Tax it as heavily as Colorado taxes theirs, dedicate ALL tax revenues to the VSC, (and subsidize in-state costs at UVM), provide for VT farmers to grow it for commercial sale to distributors nationwide (or include Canada). And let all of the other players vie for the CARES money, with the exception of $25M to keep VSC in business in the meantime. In one act you will have 1) Saved the Vermont State College system, 2) increased the agricultural health of our ailing farming industry, 3) likely reduced the cost of medical marijuana to a reasonable level for some (rather than only the well-off) Vermonters (did you know that Maine MM is 33-50% the cost of similar products in VT), and given the Governor a "reason" to back off his claim that a roadside test is mandatory to open recreational sales in Vermont, especially since such a test does not exist, and no one has suggested how one might (in all seriousness) be created and work. What better reason to do this, than "Saving the Vermont State Colleges", in the midst of a pandemic.

· Engage the Legislative money committees to thoughtfully and creatively determine what funding is available and where it would be applied

· When I first heard about the proposal to close the three colleges, the first thing that came to my mind is the huge funding disparity between the K-12 education system and higher education in Vermont. As a retired K-12 educator, I believe that teachers work incredibly hard and deserve fair compensation for that work. However, it’s discouraging to hear so many school systems argue that their financial hands are tied because the vast majority of their funding goes to salary and benefits. Essentially what they’re saying is that in Vermont, we refuse to reduce staff regardless of how small our classes and the student to teacher ratio becomes. I support more funding for our state colleges but not at the expense of higher property taxes. The answer is to stop resourcing a K-12 education system at a student population level that no longer exists. It might require some hard decisions and loss of teaching positions but the time is long overdue.

· Public & Private Economic Engines: VSC's campuses and private businesses are both economic engines for the State. Should a private business consider leaving Vermont, governments on many levels find ways to keep them here. We do this knowing how important these engines are. Our State College campuses are no different; they are the economic engines for their geographical regions. However, they are different in one important aspect, we, the citizens of Vermont and you our representatives control their future. It's not left in the hands of a private business's CEO.

· Leadership that supports and approves the bridge financing and a long-term commitment to all of VSC's campuses

· Keep VSAC funding in-state


· Merge UVM and our various State Colleges for all the same reasons we required of our K-12 redistricting. Then get serious about funding higher education with additional funding source

· State commitment to funding is most important now, in order not to crash fragile enrollment numbers

· A solution that I was researching was the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation - Postsecondary Success Program. According to their website ( ), their goal is “To ensure that all students who seek the opportunity are able to complete a high-quality, affordable postsecondary education that leads to a sustaining career.” Without NVU, many students would no longer have access to such an opportunity. An area of focus on their website is first generation students and their success. Considering that 51% of NVU - Johnsons students are the first to go to college in their family, I believe that NVU is a good example of what the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundations goals represent. Consider reaching out to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation because I believe that this is an issue that they will feel strongly about. Please continue to search for ways to keep the Vermont State Colleges running. Not only for me, but for all of the first generation college students in the state that rely on NVU and Vermont Tech to gain more opportunities than our parents had.

· Bridge funding should be for 5 years, not one, to demonstrate to the students that we're on solid ground and reassure the students.

· Look at identifying long term funding source, this is worth raising taxes for, or change over less important funding, such as the funding that currently goes to VEGI incentives, to state colleges.

· Can Vermont tax returns offer an option of making a tax-deductible contribution to NVU?

· State support is needed. I don't know how that can happen, but it should be given priority because these institutions are not only necessary for sustaining Vermont's economy, they have the potential to grow our economy and reduce poverty levels.

· This needs to be approached from both directions: lower costs of maintaining the sites and increase the income.


Process Going Forward

· Involve the students: In my years in education we found that for the most difficult issues, the students, as one’s children, come up with the best answers, plans, imagination, research capacity as well as ability

· I think it would be useful to have someone or a team (perhaps faculty from VSC) do a literature search for different models and designs for higher education systems. Maybe somewhere in the world there are ways to structure and deliver college services that might be of value for us to consider.

· It would be helpful if everyone read the “White Paper” ( so we can all become informed about the current demographics and financial realities VSC is currently struggling with. In order to develop solutions it’s important understand what has already been tried and what the challenges are.

· Involving Vermonters with experience in education but not directly affiliated with VSC will be an important part of bringing in ideas; for example, people who have retired after lifelong careers in education

· Lots of volunteers to be on a work group, and people willing to help

· Have an independent higher ed analysis & work group including economic development

· Any changes must consider the economic impact to the area

· Create boards composed of a subset of the people who have reached out with ideas - either a separate board per campus or one single board

· Study the economic and societal benefits of the colleges, to fully understand them.

· This is an election year, make VSCS funding an issue in every single election from local on up, including hosting gubernatorial debates at NVU. Change the narrative surrounding NVU - the colleges are not failing, and President Collins has




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