Transforming Vermont Technical College

04 Jun 2020

June 8, 2020

Today, Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearson shared her final report of the financial review of the Vermont State Colleges System. The Office of the State Treasurer was asked by leadership in the House of Representatives and the Joint Fiscal Office to review the VSCS’s financial position. In addition, Dr. James Page, Former Chancellor from the University of Maine System, submitted his report on funding for the Vermont State Colleges System FY2020 and FY2021. Dr. Page worked with the VSCS and the Joint Fiscal Office to undertake a financial assessment of the system.

June 4, 2020

The Transition Advisory Taskforce (TAT) met and provided an update as of June 4, 2020. In a general update, the committee shared that the Vermont House and Senate approved $12M for COVID-19 assistance for the VSCS, and it is on the Governor’s desk for signature. Separately, the VSCS has requested 25% of the regular state appropriations at the beginning of the fiscal year. The VSC has launched a strategic planning taskforce, VSCS Forward. Vermont Tech participants in the VSC task force include Lit Tyler (VTC – Dean of Administration),  Sarah Billings-Berg (VTC – Associate Dean of Nursing), and Kim Hannon-Brobst (VTC – Coordinator of Remote Access Services and selected representative of the Staff Federation).

In addition, Vermont Tech is proceeding with “Vermont Technical College — Agriculture & Food System Education Transformation Project at the Randolph Campus.” Ellen Kahler of the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund and sponsor of the state’s Farm to Plate initiative, has volunteered to facilitate a larger, statewide group of ag and food systems specialists who are also volunteering their time, to define the educational niche Vermont Tech can “own” around ag and food systems education.  The group is being co-chaired by Regina Beidler from the Beidler farm here in Randolph Center and Louise Calderwood, former faculty here and at Sterling College as well as former Deputy Secretary of Ag in Vermont.  Molly Willard will be part of the Steering Committee and Dr. Crowe, Steph Nault, Greg Hughes and Dave Rubin will be part of teams and subject matter experts in this process.  There will be survey work and other outreach from this group as they get rolling.  This work is planned to take 7-9 months and will culminate in a business plan for the resulting education plan.  It is also expected this group will help with funding requests as needed.  This process is starting later this month.

For its own report, the TAT provided information about its fifth meeting on June 4, 2020 via Zoom. TAT has formed four sub-groups to review the over 400 ideas and recommendations. As previously mentioned in an earlier communication, the groups include these members.

  • Group 1: Academics, Delivery (Kellie Campbell, Ana Gaillat, Joan Richmond-Hall, Curtis Steins)
  • Group 2: Recruitment, Enrollment, Student Life; Facilities (Travis Allen, Nate Ball, Ryan Cooney, Jason Enser)
  • Group 3: Campuses; VSCS Reorganization; Administration (Brooke Burlett, Ross Lieblappen, Michelle Stearns)
  • Group 4: Costs; Revenue, Tuition, Funding (Veronica Golden, Scott Sabol, Lit Tyler)

At the June 4th meeting, each of the four groups presented their initial review of community ideas. Of the 400 suggestions, approximately 100 were identified as higher priority or warranting development. TAT agreed to consolidate the ideas into common themes in order to focus its planning efforts. Over the next week, TAT expects to develop these themes which will be shared with the college community when finalized. All of the original ideas remain part of a library of suggestions for reference.

TAT also reviewed the program cost matrix which is being shared this week staff and faculty. This tool will assist in the screening and development of planning initiatives.

Lastly, suggestions continue to be offered through the taskforce website and are being added to the growing list of ideas for review.

June 2, 2020

In the fourth update from the Transition Advisory Taskforce, the team itemized the four key metrics that were endorsed at their last meeting:

  1. The College’s operating budget will achieve a 5% operating margin annually.
  2. Return on educational investment will increase by X% through cost reductions and enhanced graduate outcomes.
  3. All programs will design decentralized delivery and access for students (including non-traditional) by fall 2021 and implement as feasible.
  4. Levels of graduate educational satisfaction, career preparedness, and ability to participate in an effective citizenry will continue or improve.

In addition, the over 300 recommendations and ideas have been organized into four groups for review. Each group has three or four TAT members who have begun the process of reviewing recommendations. Participants are noted in parenthesis.

  • Group 1: Academics, Delivery (Kellie Campbell, Ana Gaillat, Joan Richmond-Hall, Curtis Steins)
  • Group 2: Recruitment, Enrollment, Student Life; Facilities (Travis Allen, Nate Ball, Ryan Cooney, Jason Enser)
  • Group 3: Campuses; VSCS Reorganization; Administration (Brooke Burlett, Ross Lieblappen, Michelle Stearns)
  • Group 4: Costs; Revenue, Tuition, Funding (Veronica Golden, Scott Sabol, Lit Tyler)

Each group will evaluate and rank each suggestion based on the “planning considerations” developed and shared in a previous email. The categories of these considerations include: students, finances, community, access, programs, and general planning. Each review may include brief comments where the reviewers wished to add clarifying information.

The Task force hopes to complete its review and prioritization in the next two weeks. Some form of that prioritization will be shared with the college community.

May 26, 2020

In the third update of the Transition Advisory Taskforce, the team mentioned a recent discussion with the Vermont Legislature’s financial consultant, James Page. Mr. Page was informed of the unique challenges of and special role played by Vermont Tech in creatng Vermont’s next generation of educated employees. They noted interest in the sale of various properties which are being pursued to offset COVID-19 enrollment declines.

At its May 21st meeting, TAT completed the following:

  • A review of four key metrics to guide planning, and which are being finalized this week
  • A review of the financial information provided to the State Treasurer which illustrates the range of fiscal deficits based on various enrollment scenarios
  • A review of demographic and enrollment projections, including historical data and fall projections
  • A preliminary review and discussion of a process to evaluate the various recommendations provided by the college community

The next step in planning is to finalize Key Metrics, and to prioritize community recommendations.

May 20, 2020

In the second update of the Transition Advisory Taskforce, the team shared that the Vermont Legislature has hired a financial consultant, James Page, former Chancellor of the University of Maine system, to conduct a VSCS financial assessment. Dean of Administration, Lit Tyler, has been working with the Vermont State Treasurer’s Office to assist in developing short term financial plans. The current expectation remains that the Legislature is attempting to provide financial assistance for the 2020 fall and perhaps 2021 spring semesters. However, there is still no definitive action. Calls to legislative representatives continues to be encouraged.

The Taskforce update outlines a draft workplan, which includes goals, a preliminary schedule, planning principles, and important planning considerations. An important next step is to reach an agreement on key metrics and review the community recommendations to date. The taskforce also articulated that they continue to welcome input, so invite the community to share ideas via email.

May 11, 2020

The Transition Advisory Taskforce released its first update to all Vermont Tech students, faculty, and staff. The update names all the taskforce members and their affiliation (e.g. union representation). The goal of the Taskforce is to assist in the development of a plan to transition Vermont Technical College to a more sustainable institution able to withstand vulnerabilities exposed by the COVID-19 virus and the Vermont State College’s financial challenges. The details of the plan is the work of the Taskforce and Executive Committee, with input and suggestions from all the Vermont Tech Community. The overall goal of planning is to create an even more sustainable, efficient, effective, and student-focused institution.

The update outlines the need to complete its work by June 29th and a process where all recommendations are evaluated. The Taskforce also articulated that communication is a top priority and shared a new email address for the sharing of information and ideas: transitiontaskforce@vtc.edu. We thank them for their work.

May 4, 2020

The college announced a new FAQ to help provide additional information. The questions are largely the result of an open forum held with students. Additional questions can be sent to communications@vtc.edu if not addressed in the FAQs.

May 1, 2020

President Moulton provided an update to the college.

April 29, 2020

April 27, 2020

President Moulton has announced her plan for a Transition Taskforce, comprised of representatives from staff, faculty, students, and administration. This group’s charge will be to vet all ideas brought forward to develop goals and concepts for the entire college community to consider. Our end goal is to transform the college to be more sustainable and resilient. In this process, President Moulton stressed the importance of all ideas being heard and considered. While not all ideas will be implemented, a thoughtful process must consider all options.

It is unlikely that all parties involved will like all aspects of the final plan, and there will be very difficult decisions to make. In the end, the college is aiming for a plan we can all get behind and support. In doing so, we pave the way for the Board of Trustees and Legislature to support our plan as well.

April 22, 2020

Today, Chancellor Spaulding issued a press release announcing his plan to withdrawal the proposal for reconfiguring the Vermont State Colleges System. This announcement allows for a deliberate and inclusive process towards a workable alternative solution over the course of the coming months.

Senator President Tim Ashe also submitted his statement about the withdrawal of the proposal.

Screen capture of the statement about withdrawal of the closure proposal by Senator Tim Ashe, President Pro Tem

April 20, 2020 – a message from President Moulton to the college community

It has been heartwarming to see the surge of support that our communities are pouring out for retaining a system of vital state college institutions and campuses. I am proud to see democracy in action where the will of the people has an impact on legislators, the governor, and our Board of Trustees. You have changed the conversation, which has historically shown little financial support for the state colleges, to one considering alternatives.

I call on all of you to continue to communicate with your representatives and the Governor’s office to provide an influx of financial support necessary to allow for a longer planning window than the one we currently have.

The sudden nature of the proposal to transform the Vermont State Colleges System has been a shock to everyone. There has been a very small window of time alloted to planning and responding to proposals for the system.

I fought for Vermont Tech’s future for many reasons:

  • We have the best outcomes of any Vermont college or university as demonstrated by the best ROI in the state and historically high placement rates.
  • We have always evolved to meet the need of educating Vermont’s workforce in our 154-year history.
    • I have faith in our ability to do so anytime, every time.
  • We graduate students who are job-ready on Day One, thanks to their applied experience and clinical practice.
  • Employers across numerous industries need our students to keep the economic engine of Vermont and our region humming.
  • Of employers who have hired Vermont Tech graduates, 99% of them surveyed said they would “likely” or “definitely” hire another graduate of our college.
  • We are already embedded in 12 communities around this state, delivering high-quality nursing education via Telepresence and clinical placements.
    • We are experienced at reaching students where they are and are primed for expanding offerings.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, Vermont Tech serves students who thrive in our applied learning environment, looking for high-demand technical and professional careers. There is no other technical college in Vermont and we provide a unique value to the state and our students.

The overwhelming support of our community and the state has the potential to change the timeline of transforming the system and the college. The Legislature knows that the financial struggle of the system is not hyperbole. The need for structural changes will continue even if the system is injected with additional one-time funding, but it would give the institutions more time to consider options thoughtfully, in structured processes with data to imagine what the college’s future can be.

An innovative future is possible.

A future Vermont Tech cannot look exactly as we do today, regardless of our political will. The forces changing higher education were strong before COVID-19, and consumer preferences post the pandemic are also calling for more focus on outcomes, even greater price sensitivity, and desire to stay closer to home. We have an obligation to our students and future students to be responsive their needs. We have experience reaching regionally around Vermont. Vermont Tech is more than campuses in Randolph Center and Williston. We are also a collection of invaluable programs that meet workforce needs of Vermont, professional faculty with industry experience who teach them, practical and impassioned students who pursue them, and staff and administration who support them all. We can meet students where they are, in addition to providing residential options for those that still want it. Our role in this state and region is to graduate the innovators who will continue to drive local economies. It is time for us to be innovative too.

Doing our part.

We are being asked to do our part in fixing the structural financial issues in the VSC system, to again overcome the economic crisis of the day. It is important that we recognize the scale of the issues to be resolved and work together to make Vermont Tech stronger and sustainable for future generations.

Statements from Vermont government officials were added as noted.

  • A statement from Representative Jay Hooper, “I Stand for Vermont Tech” (4/21/20)
  • A statement from Governor Phil Scott about the future of the Vermont State Colleges System. (4/19/20)
  • A joint statement of Senate President Tim Ashe and Speaker of the House Mitzi Johnson re: the pending proposals to close three state college campuses. (4/19/20)
  • UPDATED press release from the Office of the Chancellor, April 19, 2020.

April 17, 2020

Today, the Chancellor announced adaptation plans to meet the challenges of the future. He is recommending to the Board of Trustees substantial transformation and campus consolidation.