VPR Commentary Stirs the VSC
Published: Friday, May 4, 2012
Updated: Friday, May 4, 2012 00:05
One man’s opinion about overhauling the Vermont State College system, as it is currently constructed, has brought both criticism and praise.
A Vermont Public Radio commentary about the VSC has caused a stir within the system.
The piece, aired Monday night, by Bill Schubart talked about the likelihood of supporting five Vermont state colleges in such a small state. Schubart’s solution to increasing education costs was to enfold the VSC into the University of Vermont. This solution has been met by pushback from the VSC.
“It struck me that this was not a well-informed commentary by a very experienced commentator for VPR,” said VSC Chancellor Tim Donovan. “It was full of inaccuracies and assumptions that made no sense. How do we think we are going to make this less expensive by rolling the least expensive option (the VSC) into the most expensive option (UVM)?”
Donovan sent a letter to Schubart addressing these concerns on Tuesday after he was bombarded by calls, emails and text messages from those upset by the commentary. The letter highlighted some solutions Schubart suggested that have already been put in place.
Schubart said that any student attending a Vermont State College should be able to transfer credits to any other school or switch from one school to another easily.
Donovan said that possibility is already in place.
“We have one course database for the system,” he said. “Credits taken at any state college count at every state college.”
Rolling the VSC into UVM would not make financial sense. Donovan cited the recent hiring of Lyndon State College’s president, Joe Bertolino, at $142,000.
“There are 22 vice presidents at the University of Vermont that make more than $150,000,” he said. “If you were working within the (UVM) structure and had a campus dean, the University would be paying more than we are paying for presidents.”
There had already been a study done by Governor Jim Douglas in 2009 that looked into the possibility of consolidating the VSC schools. The study said it found that a merger would impact the cultural differences of the VSC and UVM in a negative way. The study also said that a merger would not save much money and could “result in negative impacts on students if academic programs and facilities were terminated, consolidated, or relocated.”
Schubart says that his piece was meant to be an opinion and to ask a question to open up discussion.
“I did expect that this would elicit a pretty strong response,” he said, adding that the criticism that he did not do his homework about this topic was justified. “I don’t always, because it’s an opinion piece, call everybody involved. I try to be fair and I try to be practical above all else.”
Schubart said that of the responses he has received since the piece ran, almost half have been positive, a third have disagreed, and the rest said it was a good idea, but should be explored differently.
One of the inaccuracies in the commentary was that Schubart never brought up one of the VSC schools, the Community College of Vermont. The VSC includes Castleton State College, Johnson State College, LSC, Vermont Technical College and CCV.
“It was because I saw (CCV) as a much more regional initiative,” he said.
Schubart went on to say CCV should have been included because it highlights his point even further. The census conducted in 2010 said the population of Vermont stood at 625,741 and there are six state funded schools of higher education with the VSC and UVM.
“That is a full blown college system for every 100,000 people in Vermont,” he said. “People forget that.”
The piece was not meant to disparage the Vermont State Colleges. Schubart grew up in Morrisville, Vt. next to JSC and said all the VSC schools have a great reputation.
“I’m grateful that we have these schools, but there is a real question as to whether we can afford to manage all the unique infrastructures of all six of them,” he said.