Thank you to everyone who has been in touch about COVID-19 related issues. As the Vermont Health Department noted, early intervention efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 appear to be working. We have reason
to be optimistic, but as the Governor has indicated, we are still a long way from returning to normal.
If you follow my weekly updates, you know that I am a member of the House Education Committee. I also serve as one of four legislative members of the Vermont State Colleges System (VSC) Board of Trustees. Being a VSC Trustee is a special honor for me — I am an alum of both CCV and NVU Johnson, and I have great respect for the educators who helped me achieve success.
The VSC was created in 1961 and serves Vermonters all across the state. It encompasses the Community College of Vermont, Vermont Technical College, Castleton University, and Northern Vermont University’s Johnson and Lyndon campuses.
You probably saw headlines that the VSC Chancellor proposed a major reconfiguration of the system to shift programming from the Johnson and Lyndon campuses to Castleton University, and relocate VTC from its Randolph campus to Williston. Many Essex community members have contacted me to weigh in on the proposal. In addition to local input, I have received more than 1,000 emails, and numerous phone calls, from Vermonters in the past several days. I’m grateful for everyone who has been in touch.
The Chancellor’s proposal comes at a time when many residential colleges face challenges. Regional public and private higher education institutions have been trying to navigate weak demographics and other pressures. The COVID-19 crisis has caused an unprecedented disruption. In March, students were rapidly sent home to ensure safety. The VSC moved quickly to migrate instruction to online platforms. In turn, colleges have had to refund room and board to students, and cancel events, throwing budgets out of balance. Extraordinary costs and declining revenues have rapidly eroded the System’s financial position.
It’s important to know the following about the future of the VSC: 1) No decision has been made. 2) The Board of Trustees is actively working with the campus communities, faculty, students, and VSC leadership. 3) The Congressional Delegation, Governor, and Legislative leaders are partnering with the VSC to try to find a way forward. Everyone at every level of the VSC is working incredibly hard to manage through this challenging time. My focus is on listening to the concerns of impacted communities and students, who are anxious for their future. Please know I hear you. I will keep the community updated as this situation unfolds.
Vermonters have been practicing social distancing for more than a month. Please know both Rep. Houghton and I welcome your feedback as we work through this tough time. I can be reached at [email protected]. You can also chat with both of us, and other Essex State Reps, at our next Community Town Hall. We will meet using an video/phone platform at 9am on Saturday, May 9th. Look for details to log in as we near the date — we hope you can join the conversation!