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Students wary of VSC merger

Now, the VSCS is considering merging state schools – including Castleton University – into one Vermont State University.  The Community College of Vermont would remain separate.

Patrick Lucey a senior at Castleton and president of the Student Government Association, isn’t sure it’s the best idea.

“I really don’t see any advantages coming from this plan. Show me how we are going to save money by the merger. The last plan to merge two Vermont state colleges did not end up well and I think that if we merge all the Vermont state colleges, it will really hurt Castleton,” he said. “People who are alumni would no longer want to associate possibly since their individual school is gone, you would lose annual donors and so forth. I would certainly need more information on this plan, but I believe this idea of a merger is impulsive.”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic the VSCS was in a bad situation due to lagging enrollment at numerous colleges. The VSCS was spending more then it was bringing in and causing the system to be running at a deficit, Chancellor Sophie Zdatny told legislators last summer.

These problems only persisted and worsened as the pandemic started, fueling merger talks.

Castleton junior William is not a fan of any merger plans.

“A merger could be beneficial for the other colleges in the VSC, but I believe that in the long run, it is only pushing back the inevitable,” he said. “There just is not enough in Vermont to retain and bring in students or keep them around after graduation. The alumni may not support the system if their alma mater is closed or merged due to the lack of a connection to the new system.”

At a recent meeting of the Vermont State College Student Association, the potential merger was the main talking point as the days count down to a March 3 student forum for students to ask the Board of Trustees questions.

  But not all students are totally against a merger. Kyleigh Savory, a sophomore at Castleton, is keeping an open mind.

“I would not mind VSC merging, as it could bring great opportunities to the Castleton students and campus. But I am concerned on what this all means for the community as it can be a big change,” she said.

Business professor Tom Rutkowski said he worries about the impact on Castleton if the merger happens.

“I feel that Castleton is by far the strongest ‘brand’ in the VSC and could stand alone and do well, with the proper funding. I wonder whether Castleton alumni will feel as strongly about their alma mater if it is merged with the other schools,” he said. “I feel that Castleton school spirit has grown immensely in the 24 years that I have been teaching here, and I wonder if that spirit and loyalty to alma mater would diminish with a merger.”