More changes could come to Vermont State University, with a new report that recommends the school make significant changes to its academic programs.
The report released Monday by a VTSU “working group” proposed discontinuing ten programs and consolidating 13 others. Another 11 more could be shifted to other campuses.
Interim President Mike Smith emphasized that no current students would be affected. He said only 77 students — less than 2% of total enrollment — are enrolled in the courses that would be cut.
“If we’re offering courses that aren’t attracting students and are fiscally underwater, we’re not being responsible to the rest of the students that are paying tuition at the university,” says Smith.
Smith said the recommendations came from a group that researched the schools’s enrollment. He said the proposed changes are cost-effective decisions that “make the most sense” and would keep the school afloat.
“That working group consisted of faculty, staff, and administrators, and we came up with criteria to use when looking at the courses,” says Smith.
He said implementing the proposed cuts and consolidation would save VTSU $2.1 million to $3.5 million over the next two years.
The recommendations would, however, require cutting 20 to 33 jobs, he said. Faculty and staff in the affected programs will be offered a buyout, he said.
“My hope is that we avoid any layoffs through these buyouts, but if we don’t get the uptake on the buyouts, we’ll have to do some layoffs in this endeavor,” says Smith.
Smith said the report is a draft, and that he is is looking for comments and feedback from faculty, staff, and students until the end of the month. He specifically wants to hear from faculty as they’ll be the most impacted.
Some of the proposed changes could go into effect in time for the 2024-2025 academic year.
Smith said some courses — “landscape design, for example” — didn’t enroll enough students to merit continuing.
Other courses that may be cut include forestry and agriculture, VTSU said. One recommendation would consolidate data science with math and statistics.
“We combined climate change with atmospheric science. We just thought they were very closely aligned, we felt it was best to consolidate those two programs together,” he continues.
Inclusive childhood education could possibly leave the Lyndon campus for only Johnson and Castleton.
Smith remains optimistic that the recommendations will help in the long run, but says he had to make some difficult decisions.
With enrollment down, Smith said a new strategic plan is in place to work on getting enrollment up in the coming years.
The full draft report can be accessed here.