Elizabeth (Beth) Mauch (Chancellor, Vermont State Colleges) introduced herself to the House Education Committee on Friday and talked about her excitement about taking on her new role. She has spent a quarter century in higher education and is excited that the Vermont Legislature has made such a "strong commitment" to the state system and is looking forward to the future at the state Colleges (VCS).
Mauch introduced Drake Turner who is the (Director of External and Governmental Affairs, VSC) who noted that there are currently 1,400 students enrolled in the current graduating class. She noted that 2027 is already a remarkable class with 52% of students identifying as first generation. Over half are Pell Grant eligible and 19% identify as BIPOC. Additionally, 70% of the students in this current class are from Vermont.
She noted that the college system will be able to expand the nursing program from 676 students to 1,000 students, in part, because of investments secured by Senator Leahy. That they are revitalizing their respiratory therapy program, working in partnership with UVM and the two institutions within the VSC. This is the only program of its type in the state.
The colleges are committed to playing a role in childcare education and workforce. Turner told the committee that a 2021 graduate of the childcare program was named this year's early childhood educator of the year. She also shared that CCV is working with the state to offer college level course credits for on-the-job training. Twenty students are currently enrolled from within the state, saving $12k each in average tuition. CCV is also launching a post-secondary education program for justice-involved individuals which will be funded through federal grants from the Department of Justice and will be available for both staff and those incarcerated.
Another program they are working on is 3D Technology Certificate which will introduce students to these new technology. The program has been developed and approved and the equipment has been ordered. They are looking at the summer of 2024 to implement the program.
Member of the Committee asked how students are advised of all the opportunities available to them. Mauch responded that they are working to expand outreach efforts but work through guidance counsellors throughout the state. "It's all about relationship building," she said. Another Committee member noted that there is no uniformity throughout the state. Some schools are good at informing their students, and others not so much.
Mauch took a few minutes to review the overall system structure. She talked about the community college and the new university system, noting they wanted to make sure to provide as many opportunities as possible and that services and efficiencies are in place. She wants to make sure that they are meeting the needs of Vermonters today. She talked about the trustees, system leadership, the 15,000 students who are taking accredited classes, and the 3700 taking workforce credits for credentials. On average, they serve about 20,000 learners at any given time.
Sharon Scott (Chief Financial and Operating Officer, VSC) spoke to the Committee about the past few years at VSC, including its financial crisis and following "dramatic restructuring." On July 1, 2023 the merger of the state colleges was completed and the focus shifted to shared services to ensure efficiencies throughout the system. This included identifying twenty occupations that were either moved, consolidated, or eliminated. Twenty-six full time faculty will be reduced through a voluntary buyout along with thirty-three fewer executive management and supervisory positions. All reductions reflect 12.6% reduction in faculty and 7.8% in administrative positions. VSC has achieved the first $10M in savings (as requested) and with planned reductions and other changes the institution will meet the required $15M in reductions remaining.
Scott noted that the asset value of the total compensation package for faculty is higher than other institutions. There is a plan to work with bargaining units to allow the institution to make adjustments in a way that makes sense.
A review of the facilities indicated 2M square feet of space for students. This is higher than other comparable schools. The study also showed that from 8 am to 5pm Monday through Friday the space only used to 32% of it's capacity. Other institutions have a 62% occupancy rate. VSC is now looking "closely and carefully" of how best to use space when considering maintenance and carrying costs. A member of the Committee asked about usage during the summer. Several campus locations have a very robust summer program but they still need to look at what the ‘right size’ for staff and space actually is.
A Committee member asked about pricing of services. The University is working on a way to provide a consistent pricing structure which varies from campus to campus. They need to eliminate inconsistencies between locations.
Chairman Conlon noted that the discussion of budget needed to be rescheduled to ensure adequate discussion time.