Please check back as these FAQs may be updated and additional questions and answers added as planning for Vermont Tech’s transformation continues.
Last updated: May 1, 2020.
These questions were based largely on an open forum held with students. After reading the FAQs below, please reach out if you have additional questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What federal funding is available?
Vermont Tech has applied for both types of federal funds available currently through the CARES Act. The first fund is $480,000 for distribution directly to students, and the Financial Aid office is finalizing the process this week. The second fund is also $480,000 and can be used to compensate for refunds and other COVID-19 expenses. This amount offsets about half of Vermont Tech’s cost of returning room and dining refunds.
The State Colleges System is supported by the State of Vermont through annual legislative appropriation. Vermont Tech students access federal financial aid to assist with their cost of attendance. The college also applies for federal grants to support special and on-going projects and programs. The majority of the college’s budget comes from tuition, fees and residential life revenue.
We expect to access appropriate federal and state economic development funds as we move forward with the transition.
What difference do demographics make?
The VSCS captured a number of demographic illustrations well in their White Paper for the Serving Vermont by Securing the Future of the State Colleges. In it, the Agency of Education enrollment report shows the steady decline of Vermont high school seniors since a 2007-2008 high of nearly 7,000 to just over 5,000 in 2017-2018. There is also the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education comparison of Vermont to the nation for enrollment projections to 2031, which shows an overall decline. However, high school graduates are only one segment of college demographics. According to an Advance Vermont survey of current and recent college students, they found that 33% of today’s students are 30 or older, 25% are parents, and 52% receive little to no financial support from their parents. These students need greater flexibility to access education and more support to maintain life balance with their competing priorities of work and families. Part of our challenge is arranging and scheduling programs accessible to working adults, as well as those who wish to participate in our current offerings.
Is Randolph closing?
The Randolph Center campus is not closing for the fall 2020 due to the former Chancellor’s withdrawal of his proposal. President Moulton has stated her preference for a solution that maintains the Randolph Center campus during the college’s transformation.
Can we move Williston to Randolph?
Just like there are challenges of moving all the programs of the Randolph Center campus to Williston, there also exist challenges of moving all the programs of Williston to Randolph Center. Health profession students complete clinical requirements at a diverse variety of health care settings in the greater Chittenden County area that are not replicable in Orange County. The college’s Professional Pilot program flies out of the Burlington airport and is an integral partner with the Vermont Flight Academy. Closing of either campus presents unique challenges and opportunities. President Moulton has stated her preference for a solution that maintains both campuses during the college’s transformation. Both campuses and the college’s distance sites play important roles for Vermont Tech.
When can we get our belongings from the dorms?
We inquired with the state as recently as of April 27, 2020. They are still not allowing the college to grant access to residence halls to students for the removal of belongings. We continue to monitor changes to the Governor’s direct orders for the opportunity to initiate our plan of a coordinated move-out process.
What is our marketing plan? Why is our target demographic high school students and not adults/career switchers?
The marketing messages focus on outcomes and placement, which are particularly important to post-traditional students. We market the college and Schools to encourage prospective students to visit Vermont Tech’s website to explore our programs. The college’s marketing plan has many components, including activities for graduating high school students and adult/career switcher (post-traditional) students. The college uses its own website and social media channels for promotion, paid television and radio advertising through traditional and streaming media, and digital advertising online through Google and Facebook and Instagram. The college has also invested in a digital platform for distribution of student achievements that reaches family members, legislators, and local media for earned media mentions. A valuable resource to the college is word-of-mouth referrals, so all stakeholders are encouraged to recommend Vermont Tech to anyone interested in going to college.
What is our financial picture?
As a stand-alone college, Vermont Tech maintained a balanced budget for a number of years and was on track to close with a small surplus prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. The college could have covered the expense of our room and board refunds with strategic reserves, but it would have drained a portion of that resource.
We are not a stand-alone college, however, and are part of the System Corporation. Our financial picture is tied to the health of the system overall, which is facing a significant shortfall in light of room and board refunds at the system level and projected enrollment declines for fall. The System assisted Vermont Tech in 2013 by providing the college a loan when we experienced a drop in enrollment. We are paying that back. There are positives and negatives to being in a system. Overall, it has been positive. Now, we need to do our part to strengthen the system by “right sizing” our college configuration.
Can Vermont Tech become its own entity?
Becoming a separate corporation requires legislative action, but it is possible.
Can donations be made to keep the school going? Would returning our refunds help?
Donations to the college are very welcome and needed to demonstrate to the legislature that our communities support the college too. Students have asked us if returning refunds could be another way to give to the college, which it can be for those that can afford it and choose to do so. Donations to the Annual Fund can be made anytime through our website or by contacting Curtis Ostler in Development & Alumni Relations.
Will we be able to finish our degrees?
At this time, we are not proceeding with any program closures. Should that need to change in the future, students would be provided the opportunities to finish their degrees. We enter into that contract with every student when they enroll at the college and it is our obligation under our accreditation to help students finish their degrees, as well as our responsibility.
The example of our Fire Science program, where we are teaching out the program to all the students enrolled without accepting new applicants, is one way students are able to finish out their degrees. The closing of the College of St. Joseph demonstrates another way that colleges can meet the requirement of helping students. They entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Vermont Tech to teach out their Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science, facilitating the degree completion for their existing bachelor’s students. There are different ways colleges can help students finish their degrees, but we are required to create these opportunities and would do so if needed.
Are pay cuts possible across the system?
President Moulton has announced that she and members of her Senior Leadership Team have taken 10% pay cuts. Other employees covered by union contracts require a negotiated process to facilitate pay cuts across the system.
Can we combine colleges?
Solutions that combine the colleges are worth vetting. President Moulton and President of CCV, Joyce Judy, have discussed options that include a separate corporation for CCV and Vermont Tech. We are also in discussions with CCV about additional collaborations to find efficiencies. These are ideas worth considering, but no plan to combine colleges has been confirmed for implementation at this time.
Why were we left in the dark? Why didn’t leadership reach out sooner to tell us?
The timeline for reacting to the newly formed financial picture in light of refunds and fall enrollment projections was extremely short. It was not intentional to keep stakeholders in the dark, but it ended up being the impact on those that care deeply about our institutions. Former Chancellor Spaulding has been extremely clear publicly, with the Legislature, in Board of Trustees meetings and other communications about the financial sustainability of the system, as well as during the Securing the Future meetings with the colleges and to the legislature. The pace of the financial impact of COVID moved as quickly as the virus itself, changing rapidly.
News of the magnitude of the system’s budget shortfall has the potential for a negative effect on future enrollment. It points to vulnerabilities that can cause prospective students to be wary about choosing one of the system colleges, further exacerbating the financial struggles. A benefit to being decisive with plans to remedy the budget shortfalls is to signal that the system can be stronger after a transformation and sustainable. Having said that, it is not meant to imply support for the process as it was implemented nor for the plans that were developed in such a rush.
Were we going to be told that the college was closing? If not for the leak, we wouldn’t know.
The Chancellor’s staff had begun notifications to unions when the news was leaked to the media in a Senate hearing. The Chancellor’s plan for disseminating the news included emailing the college constituents before alerting the media. Due to a leak to the legislature, and mention of the draft press release in a live hearing, the media were alerted to the communication in advance of internal communications. It was not how the Chancellor intended for the communications to flow. Internal stakeholders were intended to know through direct communications before the media knew and not through the media.
Transparency is important to us and communication is key. A closed-door process and a leaked press release is not how we wanted our community to learn of such impactful news.
Can we move all of our allied health students together? Are we increasing seats in the program?
Our nursing and health professions majors are among the most in-demand programs at the college. The number of students we can accept into those programs is limited by the capacity of clinical placements and student-to-faculty ratio requirements. Nursing is increasing seats for fall 2020 at several locations, including Williston, Rutland, and St. Albans. The plan is to continue to increase gradually the number of seats over the next three years. That pace is designed to ensure program quality is not adversely impacted and that there are adequate resources that are sustainable for the nursing programs statewide.
Why did this happen so fast?
The timeline was impacted by the suddenness and rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and our response to it to send students home. That response created a financial burden more significant than the system’s reserves can absorb, particularly if students are unable to return to face-to-face instruction this fall. The system’s financial position is a barrier to lenders without showing significant changes can be made in a short timeframe. Financial support from the State is needed to alleviate this immediate need so we are able to extend the timeline for transformative changes.
It is important to recognize that financial challenges have been facing higher education institutions around the country for some time. A major trend exists with closures and mergers of colleges and universities, mostly among small, private liberal arts institutions.
What is the timeline plan?
President Moulton has announced her desire to have a first draft plan prepared by July 1, 2020 through the work of a Transition Taskforce. This allows the college the coming fiscal year (FY2021) to make plans and budgets for changes for the subsequent fiscal year (FY2022).
Can we raise the tuition costs for instate?
Raising tuition is one way to increase revenue to the colleges. We recognize that tuition at the state colleges is already among the highest of any public institutions in the country, and that cost can limit access to some students. Since an objective of Vermont Tech’s strategic plan is to increase access, raising tuition could be counterproductive to that goal. It is a solution worth vetting, but not our preference.
How can we contact our legislators?
Legislators’ contact information is listed on their public directory. The contact information provided can enable the sending of emails, physical mail, and phone calls. We encourage citizens to specifically ask for financial support to enable time to properly plan and transition the college.
Why is Williston more viable than Randolph?
Williston is not necessarily more viable than the Randolph Center campus, but did offer a number of benefits when considering scenarios as drastic as were needed for changing the financial structure of the system in three-month’s time.
Williston offers the benefit of reducing the college’s overhead and eliminating a significant amount of deferred maintenance expenses. While counterintuitive, potentially, to think that paying rent for any additional classroom, residence halls, or labs needed costs less than owning buildings, the college’s expenses are lower when we are not obligated to pay maintenance or ownership of buildings, for heating and cooling of an entire campus (the buildings’ heating systems are not segregated by building) and repairs to roofs, boilers, and windows. Williston is also closer to a larger population center if the college were to need to switch to low-residency delivery immediately. Around the state, employer partners offered space to expand our lab and classroom spaces for more regional delivery.
What are the pros and cons of remote learning?
There are many pros to remote delivery, including the flexibility it offers to students to attend class when it is convenient to them. Remote delivery can help students balance work and school more easily. Remote delivery, specifically online learning, also provides students with access to course materials and faculty lectures for reference as often as needed to absorb the information. A con of remote delivery is that it is not ideal for delivery of hands-on and applied learning opportunities. This disadvantage can be overcome by offering a combination of remote courses and in-person lab and clinical experiences, also known as hybrid delivery. This is the direction Vermont Tech is interested in pursuing to make its programs more accessible to working adults and career changers, while still offering a unique Vermont Tech applied education, driven by the learning goals of each program’s curriculum. The success of our decentralized nursing program is an example of providing hands-on, applied learning supplemented with online learning formats, making the program flexible and accessible to students enrolled.
Is nursing more important than other majors?
There is no major more important than another to the college. The nursing program does enroll the most students and serves to address the nurse shortage in the state and region. Vermont Tech offers the only career-ladder nursing program in Vermont, with our stackable certificate, associate degree, and bachelor’s degree progression. There are many programs unique to Vermont Tech, not offered at other colleges and universities in the state, including our programs in manufacturing, paramedicine, dental hygiene, applied agriculture, transportation technology, aviation, engineering technology, radiologic science, respiratory therapy, and veterinary technology.
Will the college farm be closed and herd sold off?
At this time, we are not closing the farm nor selling off the herd. The future depends on too many factors to say with any certainty. We are putting together a working group to examine opportunities for the farm aligned with Vermont and the regions changing agriculture future.
Can you contact local businesses for support?
We have contacted numerous businesses for their support, including financial. It’s true that the COVID-19 financial affects are being felt by other industries as well, and limit what businesses can afford to give to the college. Those that can are providing their financial support. All businesses we have contacted are at least providing their political support and advocating on behalf of Vermont Tech.
How could you make a decision without researching in full?
That was by far one of the hardest parts of the challenge presented to us by the Chancellor and the financial constraints. Without sufficient time to evaluate all scenarios, and in the face of an early proposal of the Chancellor to close the college entirely, Vermont Tech leaders were left to offer alternatives using broad data and leaving many questions unanswered.
We look forward to our process upcoming that allows for evaluating options through the work of a Transition Team, with representatives from students, staff, and faculty.
Can we get rid of the Chancellor’s office?
The former Chancellor’s proposal, before it was withdrawn, did include a phased plan to transform the Chancellor’s office. It is a scenario worth examining fully to understand how the individual colleges could assume responsibility for what are currently shared services of payroll, IT, and legal counsel.
How will this impact the VAST programming?
There are no changes planned for the VAST program at this time.
Can we email you ideas?
Students, staff, faculty, and alumni are invited to share their ideas to this process. We are inviting people to engage with their respective leadership organizations: Student Council, Staff Council, Faculty Assembly, and Curtis Ostler for alumni. Ideas can also be sent to email@example.com and will be shared with the Transition Taskforce, once assembled.
When will registration open up?
Fall registration opened on Monday, April 27, 2020.
How can students contact administrators?
Students are welcome to contact the Dean of Student Affairs, Jason Enser, the Dean of Academic Affairs, Ana Gaillat, the Dean of Administration, Littleton Tyler, and Dean of the Williston Campus, Jean-Marie Clark, and the President’s Office. Students are also encourage to engage with Student Council to collaborate on their process of gathering and vetting student-led ideas.
Questions about Fall 2020
Will fall classes be held in-person or via remote instruction?
Vermont Tech is planning to be open in the fall at all of our campuses and sites.
Our preferred scenario, the one we are focused on and will implement if it adheres to public health guidance, is to resume in-person activities at our campuses and distance sites for the fall.
We are closely monitoring the recommendations of the Governor and state and local health officials to determine when we will resume in-person instruction. We are planning for several contingencies in order to be prepared for a variety of scenarios.
President Moulton has charged a task force to review and make recommendations about re-opening the campus for the fall of 2020. With the coming months before move-in day ahead of us, we have time to complete the careful preparations needed in order to welcome students back.
The health and safety of our students, faculty, staff and guests must lead our decision-making regarding all activities. We are preparing to adapt our instructional and residential life models and on-campus activities, as needed, to protect our campus community while offering the distinct applied learning and social experience Vermont Tech students expect.
When will a decision about fall semester be made?
We are closely monitoring the recommendations of local health officials to confirm that we will resume in-person instruction. We are waiting for news from the May 15th Stay Home, Stay Safe order deadline to see if we will then be able to confirm our decisions about fall.
Will I still have to pay for tuition or student fees if I’m not physically on campus?
Because the college is not closed and would continue to offer education to students remotely, there would not be an adjustment for tuition expenses. While students could be learning remotely, fees (facilities, student activity, safety/security) would continue to be used for maintenance and development of infrastructure. Course fees are reviewed individually by faculty to make sure they are applicable in a remote-delivery format. Student Activity fees will be used to provide extracurricular activities and services remotely (including, social events, wellness, fitness, and mental health services)
Will orientation still be held?
Yes, we are going to hold Orientation in a virtual format. It will include synchronous and asynchronous activities (activities done together at one time and others completed on your own time).
If fall classes are offered via remote instruction, should I live near my campus?
Under normal operations, there are residential requirements for students based on the campus’s distance from home. What is unknown at this time is what public health directives will influence residential life options for the coming academic year. The college is preparing for scenarios that include postponing the start of the academic year, continuing with remote delivery, and continuing with some remote delivery with in-person lab and clinical experiences. Such in-person offerings may be shifted to the end of the fall semester, and/or offered using public health protocols like hand washing, monitoring student and faculty health, requiring face masks, and maintaining social distancing with smaller groups accessing labs at staggered times. We understand that each of these options for fall instruction have an impact on students’ residential needs. We are closely monitoring public health directives and will give students as much time as possible to determine what housing they may require.
What if I can’t make it back to campus when in-person instruction resumes?
We understand that students may have concerns for their health about returning to a campus and in-person settings. We will work with students on a case-by-case basis to determine how they can continue to make progress on their degrees to the best of their ability in their individual circumstances.
If classes are via remote instruction again, will they be P/NP?
The spring transition to pass/no pass options for grading was in response to the move to remote delivery and disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. Any decisions regarding grading options need to be taken up by the Faculty Assembly and Dean of Academic Affairs at the start of the fall semester. Any decision would be made with the students’ best interests in mind, and the college’s desire to support students through their academic pursuits.