Vermont State College employees offer alternative solutions
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A group of Vermont State College employees has suggested streamlining upper-level administrative positions to save the system $7 million as an alternative solution to the system’s financial woes.
The system was thrust into financial crisis last year after decades of underfunding, increasing costs and a shrinking population boiled over at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, when the system was forced to reimburse over $5 million in room and board fees, the Rutland Herald reported.
Then-chancellor Jeb Spaulding suggested closing Northern Vermont University at Johnson and Lyndon, and Vermont Technical College at Randolph and was met with a fierce backlash that led Spaulding to resign.
Former VSC general counsel Sophie Zdatny was appointed as his replacement.
The state legislature approved around $30 million in bridge funding over the summer to keep the system afloat while solutions were evaluated.
A legislative select committee released a report by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems late last year that included several recommendations, including unifying Castleton University, NVU and VTC under a common accreditation. Under that plan the Community College of Vermont would remain a separate entity.
Castleton University professor Helen Mango provided a report from the VSC Labor Task Force that proposes “rethinking the whole system.” The report looks to reduce redundancies in administrative staffing. The LTC is composed of staff and faculty union leadership from throughout the system.
“We have many more upper-level administrators than we need for a system of our size,” Mango said. “If any cuts need to be made now, it should be at the top, not at the bottom.”
The report also identifies the chancellor’s office in Montpelier as an unnecessary expense and recommends relocating the office to one of the campuses. The chancellor’s office costs $180,000 to rent annually.
Mango said the report was released in November, at no cost to the system, has been given to the board of trustees, the chancellor and the select committee, and it has been overshadowed by the NCHEMS report.
“We strongly believe that after years and years of cuts to faculty and staff, that’s not where the cuts can come from anymore. It’s down to the bone and then some,” Mango said. “The quality of what we can offer to our students suffers because of that.”