Vermont State University (VTSU) should end 10 degree programs and cut approximately 20-33 faculty positions, Interim President Mike Smith suggested in an Oct. 2 draft report.
Smith’s recommendations – he advises that the school cut programs such as agriculture, music, forestry, climate change science, arts, and school psychology – also include that VTSU should combine 13 degree programs and move 11 among the school’s campuses, according to VTSU. These changes – they would start Fall 2024 – would not affect current students in the programs.
The programs recommended for termination currently enroll 77 students, Smith said. His suggested changes would remove 20-33 full-time faculty positions. VTSU plans to present a buyout program for faculty to potentially avoid layoffs, the report said.
Smith called VTSU’s program offerings – too many with too few students enrolled – financially unsustainable, given that the school ended this past fiscal year with a $22 million deficit.
“None of this is easy, and I recognize that impacted faculty will have a period of transition ahead of them,” Smith wrote in the report. “What we are doing with these recommendations is confronting our pressures head on — not running from them — and forging a path to address each and every one of them either through steps to obtain fiscal sustainability, strategic plan for admissions, or a student success model to keep students engaged in academic life.”
“I think that there needs to be a lot of explanation still about why the proposal is making the recommendations that it is,” said Dr. Linda Olson, a sociology professor who represents VTSU faculty for the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). “And also, more importantly, what data they’re basing it on.”
Though Smith suggests ending the agriculture degree program, VTSU’s new Center for Agriculture and Food Entrepreneurship may resume that education in another form, the report said. And climate change science could instead be incorporated as a concentration into an atmospheric sciences degree.
“Please know that I strongly agree that administrative costs of the university must be optimized and reduced as well,” Smith said. “With this first set of recommendations out the door I will now turn my attention to administrative costs, releasing a recommendation before my departure at the end of the month.”