Education

New Vermont State University secures accreditation, ensuring path to merger

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Dive Brief:

  • The new Vermont State University, a consolidation of three public institutions, has secured accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education, the Vermont State Colleges System announced July 12.
  • This represents a crucial step in the merger of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College, which the system’s governing board approved in September. It enables the consolidated institution to receive federal funding, like Title IV student financial aid.
  • The unified university will welcome its inaugural class in the fall 2023 term. 

Dive Insight:

The merger of Castleton, Northern Vermont and Vermont Technical College was part of an attempt to correct the system’s historically shaky finances, which it said the coronavirus pandemic exacerbated.

Last year, the state Legislature gave the system $41 million in one-time funding. It meant to support the system as it consolidated, as well as give it bridge money to address an operating deficit.

However, the move to consolidate was not widely popular, with some students, faculty and alumni of the state schools saying the system acted too quickly. Even after the board voted in favor of the merger, faculty at Castleton urged officials to take a pause, saying more time was needed to prepare for it.

The system moved forward with the consolidation. And NECHE, the accreditor, at its April meeting accepted the system’s plan. Final approval is still contingent upon the system providing two updates to the accreditor on how the consolidated institution is meeting its standards before the merger is finalized in July 2023. The first report is due by Sept. 1 and the second by March 23.

NECHE praised officials for their multiyear effort but noted in a letter to the system’s chancellor that “substantial work remains to be done between now and July 1, 2023 to assure Vermont State University will be in compliance” accreditation rules.

System leaders celebrated the step.

“Achieving accreditation for Vermont State University is monumental,” Lynn Dickinson, chair of the system trustee board, said in a statement. “Accreditation from the New England Commission of Higher Education recognizes our strategic planning work, holds us accountable for maintaining high educational standards, and ensures we make continuous quality improvements for our students.”

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