Community surprised, disheartened by plan to close Vermont Tech campus in Randolph

  • Glenda Mitroff takes a daily walk with her dog Roxie through the campus of Vermont Technical College near her home in Randolph Center, Vt., Saturday, April 18, 2020. Mitroff said she graduated with the first class in the Licensed Practical Nurse program at the college in 1997. “Frequently students would ask if they could pet my dog, and say they missed their dogs,” she said of those she would meet while walking at the school before the pandemic. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Randolph residents Tom Harty, left, and Andy Myrick, a Vermont Technical College professor, talk over morning coffee about the potential closure of the school’s Randolph Center, Vt., campus at Floyds’ General Store in Randolph Center, Vt., Saturday, April 18, 2020. Al Floyd, the store’s owner, left, and his daughter Jill O’Connor, who helps her dad run the store, have seen a drop in sales since students from the nearby college have been taking classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. O’Connor is a graduate of Lyndon State College, which merged with Johnson State College to form Northern Vermont Unversity in 2018. Both NVU campuses would also close under the plan. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Ryan Montgomery, middle, talks with Vermont Technical College Farm Manager Stephanie Nault, left, as Hannah Roberts works in the farm’s milking parlor where 80 cows are milked twice a day, Saturday, April 18, 2020. Montgomery and Roberts are both students in the Two Plus Two program in which students earn a two-year associates degree in one of VTC’s agriculture programs, then will move on to complete a bachelors degree in animal science in two years at the University of Vermont. Montgomery said he had planned to earn a second associate’s degree at VTC before moving on to UVM, but with the possible closure would likely just finish the one semester he has remainig in his agribusiness management program. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Tim LaPlante, of Wind River Environmental, right, pumps waste from the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream plant into a tank at the methane digester tended by Dan Ferrell, left, on the campus of Vermont Technical College in Randolph Center, Vt., Saturday, April 18, 2020. “I remember my mom went to college here,” said LaPlante, of Chelsea. “This place was packed all the time, you couldn’t ever find a parking space.” Ferrell, of South Royalton, graduated from the college last may with a degree in alternative energy. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News p[hotographs — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 4/18/2020 10:03:12 PM
Modified: 4/18/2020 10:03:07 PM

RANDOLPH CENTER — Students, faculty, alumni and neighbors of Vermont Technical College were surprised by Friday’s news that the 154-year-old Randolph campus may close as part of the state college system’s efforts to address a growing deficit.

The plan, which the state colleges’ board is set to take up on Monday, calls for consolidating Vermont Tech’s operations on its Williston campus and for closing the two campuses of Northern Vermont University in the Northeast Kingdom. The changes are expected to result in the loss of about 500 jobs across the system.

“Everybody’s dumbfounded,” said Al Floyd, a Vermont Tech alumnus who met his late wife Jan there in the 1960s.

Floyd, who is 76 and owns Floyd’s General Store near the Randolph Center campus, said he has already seen a drop in sales — especially in beer — as a result of the college’s classes moving online last month due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said closing the campus altogether would further reduce sales and make it tough for him to sell his store.

“What it needs is some new blood,” he said. “I’m getting a little old.”

Vermont Tech has drawn both new blood and locals to Randolph for generations, helping to educate workers in fields as varied as agriculture, nursing and diesel mechanics. School marketing materials emphasize its high job placement rate and its method of instructing students both through lessons in theory and hands-on application.

The state college system was struggling before the COVID-19 pandemic as it faced challenges such as graying state demographics, stagnant enrollment, relatively low state support and aging facilities. Now the pandemic, which for the state college system has meant refunding $5.6 million in room and board for the spring semester, has pushed the system to the point that it is looking at a deficit of as much as $10 million this fiscal year and as much as $12 million next year, according to a news release on Friday.

“These are very painful decisions, but they are necessary because we must preserve the (Vermont State Colleges System) for generations of Vermonters who rely on pubic higher education to achieve their personal and professional dreams,” VSCS Chancellor Jeb Spaulding said in the release.

Following Friday’s announcement of the plans, students, alumni, employees and community members took to social media to call on Spaulding, members of the system’s board of trustees, Gov. Phil Scott and legislative leaders to delay the board’s vote and take time to reassess.

Lisa Manning Floyd, a Bethel resident and chairwoman of the White River Valley School Board, posted one such letter to her Facebook page.

“The idea of living in a Vermont where all of our state colleges, with exception to Community College of Vermont are clustered along our western border and in Chittenden County, makes college seem even more inaccessible to young people who struggle to believe that college is an achievable goal for them,” said Manning Floyd, who is director of project-based learning at Randolph Union High School and is Al Floyd’s niece-in-law.

Manning Floyd said she worried that closing the Randolph campus would mean that more of the region’s young people would leave the area. The students who grew up in the White River Valley and then attended Vermont Tech are “the kids I still see in the grocery store,” she said. She also sees Vermont Tech-educated nurses at Randolph’s Gifford Medical Center, she said.

Licensed practical nurse Kayla Thompson graduated from Vermont Tech in 2016 and had planned to return to become a registered nurse. She was “devastated” to learn that she might not be able to do so in Randolph. The school has not yet announced which programs will be consolidated and moved to the Williston campus. Vermont Tech has about 1,600 students across its two campuses and nine satellite offices scattered around the state.

A 26-year-old Bethel resident, Thompson is on maternity leave from her job with the Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire. She likes that the Randolph campus is close to her home, there’s a gym on campus and that tutors are available if she needs help.

“Living so close, it’s easy to drop off my kids and go to class,” she said.

Current students are also anxious about the closure. White River Junction residents Laura Cooley, 19, and Allie Bartlett, 20, said they will be joining a car parade around the Statehouse at 10 a.m. Monday to protest against the closures of the Randolph campus and Northern Vermont University in Lyndon.

They’ll be doing so, “just to have our voices heard,” said Cooley, who is in her third year of a bachelor’s degree program in business technology and management. Bartlett is completing her first year in a dairy farm management program in which students complete their first two years at Vermont Tech and the second two at the University of Vermont.

Students already have had to navigate the transition to learning online in recent weeks, so the news on Friday hit especially hard.

“I have to say that their timing really stinks,” said Bartlett’s mother Lori. “These college students are trying to desperately just survive right now.”

Lori Bartlett said she’d be willing to forgo the refund for room and board if it would help keep the school’s doors open.

State Rep. Jim Masland, D-Thetford, sits on the board of the state colleges and has been a recipient of many emails since Friday expressing shock and concern about the proposed changes to the state college system.

Masland said he recognizes that the changes could be “devastating” to the communities where these institutions sit, but the board will need to find $25 million in order to keep them open. He said the board could delay its vote for as much as 10 days, but he didn’t see why it would without “a genuine commitment.”

“I’m not going to go to the table with a pig in a poke,” he said.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at or 603-727-3213.

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