|Southern Vermont College to Close Doors|
|Staff Reports, |
12:01PM / Monday, March 04, 2019
|Southern Vermont College in Bennington will close its doors in the spring. |
BENNINGTON, Vt. — Southern Vermont College, facing "insurmountable pressure," will close at the end of the spring semester.
In an announcement made Monday morning, President David R. Evans cited declining enrollment, financial pressure, and adverse action by the college's regional accreditor concerning institutional resources.
Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, Mass., has agreed to accept SVC's new students in the fall semester. MCLA staff are expected to be on the Vermont campus on Tuesday afternoon to meet with any interested students.
"Following notice at the end of January from the New England Commission of Higher Education that SVC would face a show-cause hearing over finances and enrollment on Feb. 28, 2019, the administration and board of trustees met multiple times to explore options for the college's future," Evans stated. "Unfortunately, the negative publicity surrounding this hearing, coupled with widespread concern about the health of the small private college sector in our region, has placed insurmountable pressure on our plans to increase enrollment over the next several years."
The private four-year college had only 361 students enrolled for the 2017-18 school year, down from more than 500 at its peak.
The college has struggled over the last decade, nearly losing its nursing school accreditation and losing more than $400,000 to embezzlement, both before Evans came on in 2015. The college had sought to create a pipeline into its nursing program by collaborating with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center
Evans told Vermont Digger last month that the nursing program only had 50 students, a third of its past enrollment.
"David Evans and Southern Vermont College have been terrific partners, and our innovative affiliation will regretfully end with the college's closure in May," said Tom Dee, president of Southwestern Vermont Medical Center. "We will support and assist SVC as they develop pathways to place their currently enrolled bachelor of science in nursing students in other colleges, and stand by our promise of providing tuition-debt forgiveness and employment for the eligible students that pre-qualified for our program."
In his statement Monday, Evans said the board and cabinet had determined to cease recruiting activities until the NECHE hearing was known. That action, however, "has effectively prevented us from implementing any credible plan to build enrollment to a sustainable level."
SVC is the second small Vermont college to close this year; the 175-year-old Green Mountain College in Poultney announced in January it would graduate its final class this spring, hit by similar declining enrollment and lack of partnerships. The College of St. Joseph in Rutland is teetering on the brink and Goddard College in Plainfield is on accreditation probation.
Southern Vermont dates to 1926 when it was established as a business school under the Sisters of St. Joseph and moved to the 400-acre estate of Edward Everett in the 1950s. It became a liberal arts college in 1974 and added on more majors, though its focus has been on business, nursing and health, social sciences, natural sciences and humanities.
Students who graduate in the spring will receive fully accredited degrees. On Saturday, SVC had received notice that NECHE will allow the college's accreditation to continue through Aug. 31, 2019, to enable students who need only a small number of courses or other requirements to graduate from SVC with an accredited degree at the end of the summer. Arrangements for such students are under development.
College officials say they are aggressively pursuing transfer options for continuing students,
including a preferred teach-out agreement with MCLA. For programs without a direct match, the college is seeking pathways with other colleges and universities, including Norwich University and Castleton University. The enrollment-management staff is also working to identify additional options and will support every student in finding the best path forward.
MCLA has agreed to admit all SVC's accepted new students for the fall semester and SVC leadership is also seeking opportunities to support employment transitions for faculty and staff.
"Our board and our administration deeply regret that we have not been able to find a way to continue the great work of the college in helping our students find and fulfill their potential," said Evans. "SVC has improved the lives of many students, and our legacy lives in their success and contributions to the world."