Vermont State University released details of a voluntary faculty buyout Monday that Interim President Mike Smith says will save the school $3.35 million a year and preclude the need for layoffs.

The buyout is a key component of VTSU’s recently unveiled “optimization” plan to address a $22 million budget shortfall. Earlier this month, a VTSU working group proposed discontinuing ten academic programs, consolidating more than a dozen more and shifting 11 to other campuses in an effort to streamline operations and save money.

Smith says the buyout would reduce the number of full-time faculty from 207 to between 174 and 187. Faculty eligible for the buyout have until October 27 to apply. Administrators are under a October 31 deadline to evaluate buyout requests and, if necessary, issue layoff notices for the 2024-2025 academic year.

“[T]his voluntary buyout ensures a soft landing for those ready to transition, with financial support and a deep appreciation for faculty contributions,” Smith said in a news release.

The teaching cuts would eventually increase student-to-faculty ratios from roughly 1:13 to 1:18, Smith said.

Faculty who choose the buyout will teach through the end of the current academic year, when they will receive one-half of their current annual salary in a lump sum. Faculty not covered by VTSU’s collective bargaining agreement with the Vermont State Colleges Faculty Federation will be covered by the college’s group insurance plan until January 2025, Smith said.

“This voluntary faculty buyout plan goes beyond the numbers,” he said. “It is a generous option for faculty members to choose their path and hopefully avoiding the need for layoffs. It allows those who are ready to depart at the end of the academic calendar year to do so with additional financial support.”

Smith said VTSU is under pressure to be stabilize its financial picture as enrollment lags behind expectations, as well as “to modernize to meet the needs of students and the state now and in the future.”

Smith said he plans to issue recommendations for additional administrative savings by the end of October.

“There is a path forward if we work together to right-size this unified University and achieve both the savings and student-to-faculty ratios necessary to operate more efficiently in service to our students,” added Smith. “We are all in this together, and together, we will emerge from this optimization process with a model for the nation for how to deliver affordable, rural, higher-education, training and certificates that grow our workforce and provide opportunities for students to succeed.”