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State colleges panel to make recommendations for future

June 1, 2020 GMT

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — The interim head of the Vermont State Colleges System on Monday announced a new task force to develop plans and recommendations for how the financially struggling system should move forward.

The 15-member task force is made up of people representing all the schools, as well as faculty, staff, students and trustees. An outside facilitator will be hired to the lead the discussion, interim Chancellor Sophie Zdatny said.

Zdatny was appointed interim leader after former Chancellor Jeb Spaulding resigned at the end of April following an outcry over his proposal to close the two campuses of Northern Vermont University and the technical college’s Randolph campus because of added financial problems from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The end of in-person instruction and move to online learning amid the pandemic has taken a financial toll on the already struggling state college system, as it has on other private and public universities around the country.

“We must seize this opportunity to build an inclusive and thoughtful process to consider how we transform into a sustainable organization with high-demand programs that prepare students for the economy of the future,” Zdatny said in a statement.

The task force will review ideas and develop recommendations, including to address program duplication; ensure quality, financial viability and access to programs; clarify distinguishing characteristics of each institution; strengthen the system’s focus on core, high-demand programs that meet the needs of today’s students and the Vermont workforce; and reconfigure the system in organization, finances, governance, and accreditation, the statement said.

“This is no small lift and we know change is very hard. We also know that we have to change to be relevant and successful for decades to come,” Zdatny said.

The task force is expected to give a preliminary report to the interim chancellor and board by Aug. 14.