VSC moves to merge Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges, will finalize in September

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VSC moves to merge Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges, will finalize in September

Thu, 07/21/2016 - 10:05am -- tim

Aerial View of Lyndon State College. LSC photo.

Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont State Colleges (VSC) Board of Trustees has approved, in concept, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding’s recommendation to unify Johnson State College and Lyndon State College under one administration, a move intended to create one larger and stronger college with two distinct campuses. The Board asked the Chancellor to prepare a report that identifies and analyzes the issues and tasks required for unification, a plan for stakeholder outreach, and a transition plan for unification, all in anticipation of a vote at its September 29th meeting.  

Spaulding believes his recommendation will preserve and strengthen access to high-quality, affordable, public higher education in northern Vermont.  In his presentation today, Spaulding said, “A unification would protect the long term viability and vitality of both campuses. We want all current and prospective students and their families, as well as school counselors, high school teachers and other partners to remain 100% confident that both the Lyndon and Johnson campuses will be around for the long term.”

The Board acknowledged in a resolution on the subject that an entity with a critical mass of students could strongly position the colleges to confront the headwinds that are challenging small colleges nationally, including inadequate state financial support, demographic changes, increased expenses, and competition from new delivery modes. 

Should the Board approve a resolution to unify the two colleges in September, a task force comprised of representatives from faculty and staff of both colleges will be named.  The task force will be charged with engaging all stakeholders in preparation for a proposed July 1, 2017 unification. 

“The proposal is compelling,” said Board Chair Martha O’Connor.  “Our priority is always to provide our students with the best possible college education at two vibrant campuses.  The potential to do so by possibly expanding opportunities for students, faculty, and staff in a larger college community is worth the Board’s serious consideration.”

Governor Shumlin offered the following in support of the unification proposal, “I applaud the Board of Trustees and the Chancellor for proposing this proactive step on behalf of Lyndon and Johnson and the Vermont communities and students they serve.”

Under the unification proposal, Johnson State College President Elaine Collins would become president of the unified college on July 1, 2017.  During the transition, Dr. Collins would work together with Lyndon State College Interim President Nolan Atkins to develop and implement the unification.

“Elaine Collins has had a remarkable first year at Johnson.  She is a strong, inclusive leader who cares deeply about the access mission of the Vermont State Colleges.  We are confident that she would work together with the Lyndon and Johnson communities to envision a unified college that will serve Vermonters well into the future,” said Long Range Planning Committee Chair Jerry Diamond.

Before his report to the Board is finalized on September 29th, the Chancellor will conduct stakeholder discussions on each campus.

Today, President Collins said, "I would be excited to play a leadership role in this strategic move that will benefit students and strengthen programs.  LSC and JSC have worked together over the years and have always understood that we share strong values, including our unwavering commitment to students and quality education."

“As the VSC explores unification, I am excited to think about the possibilities for Lyndon State College. LSC would emerge stronger and most importantly with more opportunities and resources for our students,” said LSC President Joe Bertolino. “With Dr. Nolan Atkins at the helm, this year of transition will be executed thoughtfully and thoroughly. The combined forces of the VSC, LSC, and JSC would result in a sum far greater than its parts while retaining the integrity and culture of each institution. That would be a tremendous resource for Vermont’s northern tier and for Vermont’s students and workforce.”

Below is the board resolution approved today. The Chancellor’s recommendation can be found on www.vsc.edu.

VERMONT STATE COLLEGES BOARD OF TRUSTEES RESOLUTION

Chancellor’s Recommendation to Unify Johnson State and Lyndon State Colleges

WHEREAS, The Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees recognizes that Lyndon State College and Johnson State College provide essential access to high-quality, affordable public higher education opportunities for students; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Trustees recognizes that each campus is an important economic and cultural resource for their regions and the State of Vermont; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Trustees is committed to ensuring that both campuses remain vibrant, viable, and vital for the long term; and

WHEREAS, Many reliable sources, including Moody’s Investors Service, predict that financial challenges caused by inadequate state financial support, demographic changes, increased expenses, and competition from new delivery modes will cause a significant increase in college closures across the country; and

WHEREAS, Even as they provide high-quality programs, small, tuition-dependent colleges are particularly vulnerable to such financial challenges; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Trustees recognizes the potential for a larger size institution to increase opportunities and supports for students with a more comprehensive curriculum, shared co-curricular learning opportunities, and more efficient use of support resources; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Trustees recognizes the potential for a larger size institution to create a stronger, more diverse community of faculty and staff with more opportunities to draw upon and develop faculty and staff expertise; and

WHEREAS, The Board of Trustees recognizes the potential for a larger size institution to achieve an improved economy of scale, redirecting valuable resources from administrative functions to the institutional mission; and

WHEREAS, Chancellor Jeb Spaulding recommends that the Board unify Lyndon State

College and Johnson State College under one administration, creating one larger and stronger college with two distinct campuses, each with its own identity, with Dr. Elaine Collins as president at the time the unification takes place on July 1, 2017;

RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees affirms its commitment to maintaining vital and vibrant campuses, each with its own identity, as points of access to affordable public higher education at both Lyndon and Johnson; and, be it further

RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees supports in concept the Chancellor’s recommendation to unify Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges into one larger and stronger college with two distinct campuses, each with its own identity, and, be it further

RESOLVED, That in order for the Board to be fully prepared to make a decision on the

Chancellor’s recommendation at its September 29, 2016 meeting, the

Chancellor shall:

• Meet with students, faculty and staff at both the JSC and LSC campuses to solicit their feedback on the Chancellor’s recommendation;

• Prepare a report that includes this feedback and identifies and addresses the legal, contractual, financial, academic, communications, and other issues that need to be addressed in order to successfully implement the Chancellor’s recommendation; and

• Outline a transition plan, including a timeline, for implementation of the

Chancellor’s recommendation.

July 21, 2016