Benign Neglect. Higher Education the Vermont Way.

It is common knowledge that for several decades the Vermont legislature has severely underfunded the Vermont State College System (VSC) and the Community College of Vermont (CCV). In the case of CCV, state financial support is almost totally lacking. CCV has depended always depended primarily on tuition for its operating expenses. Thus, CCV is one of the most expensive, tuition-wise, community colleges in the United States The relative success of this approach has been largely made possible by CCV relying totally on adjunct faculty having no tenure. The recent acceptance of unionization by the CCV faculty has resulted in pandemic hiring increasingly based on seniority. Newer adjunct faculty with greater expertise and, in some cases, better classroom teaching skills, have been left unemployed in the Covid wilderness.

The pandemic ended all regular classroom teaching at CCV including multi-site tele-presence teaching. There are some hybrid Zoom/online classes, but most teaching is fully online. By going online and increasing the class size cap from 13 to 20 students per class, CCV has significantly reduced the need for instructors. That leaves many who had been teaching in the system for only five or six years with no hope of a teaching assignment through at least 2022.

While some private Vermont colleges, like Bennington and Middlebury, are going back to in classroom teaching with vaccinated students and professors, as of this writing, CCV isn’t doing that through the Spring 2022 semester. They’re going to stay online to keep costs down and stay in business. The economic necessity of that approach is understandable for the survival of CCV in a state where the VT legislature has neglectfully underfunded the state college system, including CCV, for decades. As a result, the quality of the public college educational product in Vermont is in decline.

The poorest and most at-risk students in Vermont who have for decades relied on CCV and the VSC system to get a college education once again get the short end of the stick. Pedagogical research clearly shows that students most at-risk and in need simply do not do well with online classes. Many of our CCV students are familial first generation college students. Significant numbers of them are victims of substance abuse, domestic violence or are armed forces veterans of the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts suffering from ptsd. Many have or will simply drop out and no longer pursue college classes if they can only attend online. They are in dire need of human interaction with peers and professors in order to succeed in college and in life. The damage done to these Vermont students will haunt us for years as will other pandemic permutations like small business failures. However, CCV and the VT State College System, run by well meaning full-time staff, will survive in some form.

On the positive side, Governor Scott has decreed that bars and restaurants will soon be staying open past 10 PM. Cheers!

Trans-woman. Semi-retired lawyer and educator. LGBTQ+ advocate. Resident of the Green Mtn. State