Students and faculty of Green Mountain College in Poultney, Vermont, are reacting to this week’s announcement that the school will close later this year.
“When that news hit, everybody was just sad and kind of depressed, because everybody just loves this school,” said Hayden Jackson, a freshman from Dallas, Texas.
The private 185-year-old college, known for programs in environmental and social sustainability, announced it’ll close sometime after the spring semester, saying the campus and its operations are just no longer financially viable.
“I’m sad for the faculty and staff because they’re from this area, and they’ve grown up here, and their kids go to school here,” said senior Chelsea Wimble, from Colchester, Vermont. “It’s just so devastating.”
Small colleges across the country have faced major challenges from shifting demographics, rising costs, and drops in enrollment in recent years. GMC is the latest New England college to announce a closure blamed on money problems.
In Massachusetts, UMass Amherst acquired the campus of Mount Ida College when it shut its doors, and Newbury College will cease operations this spring.
Some other small schools have said they’re looking for mergers or partnerships with larger institutions to stay solvent.
Already, a growing list of colleges and universities have pledged to work with Green Mountain College students to help smooth their transition as they look to continue their studies elsewhere. Among them: Vermont’s Sterling College.
“For the students from Green Mountain College, it’s a fairly natural transition,” said Philip Ackerman-Leist, the dean of Sterling’s School of the New American Farmstead. “It’s not unfamiliar in terms of the curriculum.”
Ackerman-Leist noted that Sterling College also focuses on environmental stewardship, and has features that would be familiar to GMC students—including a campus farm and a dining facility that embraces local food systems.
“I feel it’s really a natural path for students who’d like to find the next step—and hopefully, here in Vermont,” Ackerman-Leist told necn.
Other schools that have announced teach-out agreements to help GMC students continue their educations on a new campus include Vermont’s Castleton University, Paul Smith’s College in New York, and Prescott College in Arizona.
Prescott College said in an announcement that it would create a “Green Mountain Center” at Prescott to help ease the transition and continue GMC’s legacy. The school said it would even create opportunities for GMC students to continue working with their familiar professors at Prescott.
Prescott and GMC were founding members of the EcoLeague—made up of liberal arts schools that focus on environmentalism, the Prescott announcement noted. The Arizona school added that it would send a representative to Vermont to discuss transfer options with students and faculty.
GMC’s president said in a letter to the campus that he is proud of the school’s long history, adding that he is confident the school’s values of strengthening communities and putting the planet first will live on through the work of alums.
“I feel that we’ve made a difference and will continue to make a difference, even when the physical campus is no longer functioning,” said faculty member Laird Christensen.
College president Bob Allen’s letter to the campus said a specific closing date has not yet been identified.