- Vermont State University will lay off just one faculty member after announcing earlier plans to cut up to 33, though the public college is deepening planned reductions to its academic degrees.
- The university avoided more drastic layoffs with 17 faculty taking buyouts, three not having their contracts renewed, and another six retiring at the end of the academic year, it said in a statement Tuesday.
- The college is now seeking to drop 11 degrees for fall 2024, up from 10 it originally announced, according to a Tuesday report. It will combine another 16 programs, while 10 others will move to another Vermont State campus.
Vermont State emerged from a consolidation of three public institutions in tough straits — Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College.
The merger and subsequent austerity moves are intended to get the three campuses back on a path to financial recovery.
Michael Smith — who ended his tenure as Vermont State’s interim president Tuesday — began recommending reductions in faculty, administration and academics last month.
Along with the academic cuts, Vermont State is looking to discontinue 33 full-time administrator and staff positions, which would save about $3.1 million annually.
In a statement Tuesday, Smith said he appreciated the faculty who accepted buyouts that enabled the university to dodge deeper reductions.
“As we near completion of this work, I also want to express my pride in the team for their efforts to put forward a plan that both shapes a unified, financially stable, and stronger university and offers a thoughtful and generous economic package to support departing faculty during this transition,” Smith said.
Yet leaders still want to shrink the university’s array of academic offerings to be more in line with peer institutions, Smith said. Vermont State maintains about 100 course offerings, while peers have close to 50. Officials also want to increase Vermont State’s faculty-to-student ratio from about 1-to-13 to 1-to-18.
The university said 80 students — less than 2% of its population — are enrolled in the 11 programs slated for elimination in the coming fall, which include natural sciences, computer engineering technology and agriculture degrees. Vermont State enrolled about 5,200 students in fall 2023.
Current students will be able to finish their degree programs at their campuses.
Students in the final two years of their coursework will likely choose to finish out their programs, while those early in their college career “may want to consider all their options,” Tuesday’s report states.
Vermont State officials examined program enrollment, both current and over the last five years, to determine which ones to ax, according to the report. They decided whether to preserve degrees based on their potential enrollment growth, their marketability and workforce needs.
Overall, programming changes could save as much as $3.4 million annually, Smith said Tuesday.
Smith has said the university ended the previous fiscal year with a $22 million deficit.
Now that Smith has stepped down, Nolan Atkins, provost and vice president of academic affairs, will be acting president before another interim leader, David Bergh, begins Nov. 15. Bergh was most recently president of Cazenovia College, a New York private college that closed after the spring 2023 term.
This isn’t the only turbulence Vermont State has experienced. Leadership turnover has plagued the nascent institution, as well as a scandal over a plan to shift its library to a digital format.
University officials ultimately scaled down the idea amid significant student, faculty and alumni backlash.