Lyndon Community Continues to Fight for Higher Education

LYNDON - The fight is far from over for the Lyndon community in regards to their Northern Vermont University campus in town. A tremendous victory was achieved last week when the Lyndon and Johnson campuses of NVU, and VTC-Randolph teamed up to save their communities, and ultimately force the VSC Chancellor Jeb Spaulding to withdraw his proposal to close the three campuses. Regardless, these communities have been left on edge after such a proposal and have not backed down.

Long time partners with the Lyndon campus, like the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, stated by a representative in a April 20th VSC BOT meeting, that they rely on the Meteorology program among other things, other more retail centered businesses rely on tourists generated by student's families and such. Everyone realizes the reality of how underfunded the VSCS has been for decades, and demand this change to occur now. Last week the Vermont senate talked about this issue extensively during a caucus. In fact, the senate brought in an economic impact expert Tom Kavet to present on the overreaching impact a closure of college campuses in Vermont would have on a community. The student was based off of a Vermont Law School that closed its doors. NVU released an economic impact statement stating that their two campuses in Johnson and Lyndon generate $113 million to the northern tier of the state. However, this number was hinted to be rather conservative during Tom Kavet's presentation to the senate caucus. "Vermont's 18-21 year old's, are the state's highest share" Kavet stated, mentioning that ignoring the money that pumps the economy of these areas has far reaching roots would give inaccurate impressions. The most significant statement and bombshell ratio that got a the attention of many senators, was that "for every direct job another 3 jobs were created".

This certainly served the understanding of the senators well. So any proposal to close colleges in such communities would lead to a "domino effect" of consequences. Now the next step for these institutions is to rely on a bridge fund of $25 million (as calculated by the VSC BOT) that would allow one year of staying afloat, however, some senators stated that they want to see a plan for beyond a year before pumping money into a broken system. All in all, a overarching support was apparent that the higher education system needs to be reformed more than ever before. The demanded and most ideal change would be for elected leaders to permanently raise state college funding from 17% to at least 35%, in order to restore confidence and thrive.

NVU-Lyndon Physics Professor Ben Luce, who organized a Facebook group called "Protest Vermont State College (Permanent) Closures" of more than ten thousand members, stated that "the colleges need strong and unconditional commitments of permanent increased funding now in order just to survive. This is not the time for a redesign. The opportunity for that was squandered by the chancellor. This is the time for stability and continuity." This past Saturday, around a total of 50 students, professors, and community members, filled Lyndonville's Main Street with flags, banners, and signs calling for proper funding of the VSCS that will last them for years and years to come. In addition, another wave of car protests filled the capitol Montpelier on Monday to protest the same narrative. The VSC Board of Trustees announced Monday that a meeting will be held this Wednesday, April 29th at 7pm, at which VSC Chancellor Jeb Spualding annouced he plans to annouce resignation. Another large turnout is expected.