Unified We Stand: LSC and JSC Will Fall

1unificaitonVERMONT - The Vermont State College Board of Trustees has approved Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's proposal to unify Lyndon and Johnson Thursday at their retreat at Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee.

After hearing concerns from various people in the community, during an open discussion community meeting, the board still went forward to unify the two colleges as an attempt to save money.

This process started last August, when the Vermont State College Board of Trustees approved Chancellor Jeb Spaulding's concept to unify Lyndon and Johnson State Colleges.

The trustees liked the idea but wanted Spaulding to do more research and have provide a feasibility report before they made a final decision.

"The idea will be to share costs over two campuses particularly in administration but at the same time we maintain the unique character of each one of those campuses." Chancellor Jeb Spaulding said.

Conversations in July indicated that there was hope to start this process in its entirety by July 1, 2017, but because of logistical issues, financial aid worries, and NEASC accreditation concerns, the start date was pushed back a year.


According to Chancellor Jeb Spaulding this will allow for a transition period to get the proper accreditation, so that they will continue to be able to issue financial through the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

"We have had discussions with the US Department of Education, with our congressional delegation and that's one of the reasons we chose July 1, 2018 to have the formal transfer of accreditation to insure that people will not lose financial aid."

Federal regulations state that in order for students to receive federal financial aid, that a college has to be running for at least two years. This sparked some concern around the Lyndon State College campus.

At Lyndon alone, according to the admissions office, 89% of students receive some type of federal financial aid. This accounts to a minimum, $4.8 million, one third of Lyndon's total operating budget.


During the community discussion at Wednesdays open session, the board of trustees talked about how Lyndon and Johnson relied on tuition to survive. This must be why they have already scheduled an almost 4% tuition increase for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Board and the Chancellor have told the public that this is going to help the two colleges save money. However, students won't see the potential financial relief until at least 2018.

"So the savings from unification are not in this year or minimal next year July one 2017 its 2018 when you'll start to see significant savings," said Spaulding.

However questions still remain about Spaulding's unification proposal both on the campuses and in the community.

The Johnson State College Student Government Association (SGA) wrote a letter to the board asking for them to answer three specific questions before they would be able to fully support the board moving forward.

* a detailed clarification of the unification timeline;
* a publicly available cost-benefit analysis;
* an accountability mechanism for leadership and open forums for feedback.

In the Chancellors report a timeline was available as well as some type of cost-benefit analysis.

The JSC SGA were not the only campus groups that expressed concern about the swiftness of the process and the unanswered questions.

The day of the public discussion, and several groups were represented including Lyndon State College alumni Council and Faculty Assembly. They spoke asking the board for more time. They believed there hasn't been enough time to digest the Chancellors 20 page report after its release on Monday evening ahead of Thursdays vote.

Jay Shafer a Lyndon State Faculty member in Atmospheric Science said, "The unification process has not incorporated the institutional knowledge of its faculty, staff, or alumni."

Barclay Tucker, Chair of Lyndon Faculty Assembly talked about his experience from a personal perspective. He talked about how he has put Lyndon first in every aspect of his life."I love my students greatly. And I would do anything for them. But I'm losing a friend." That friend he's referring to is Lyndon State College.

elaineCollins edited-2Elaine Collins has been named the new president of Lyndon and Johnson starting July 1, 2017. Starting July 1, 2018 she will be the president of the new unified institution who name has yet to be determined. But on December 1, the board will vote on what the new name will be. She said, "...courage, grit, and vision for the future will help us get through this time."

Concerns still loom over this decision to unify the colleges, and some believe it will take more than just "courage, grit and vision" to raise and find the one time cost of two million dollars for the colleges to unify.

The report states that, "Given the current operating deficits at both colleges and very limited reserves, outside revenues will be required to cover the one-time unification costs. Possible sources include State assistance, grant funding, and loans." 

Securing those funds makes people nervous because none of those sources of revenue are guaranteed.

Chancellor Spaulding and the Board want the Lyndon and Johnson communities to answer the unanswered questions and work out the details themselves.

There are two unification committees, one on each campus. The next meeting for the JSC is October 14 and there will be a meeting at LSC on October 21. The meetings are open to the entire community.

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