MANCHESTER -- Southern Vermont College has teamed up with Manchester's Northshire Bookstore to offer its students a rare opportunity: The ability to have their works published and printed.

Northshire co-owner Chris Morrow and SVC president Karen Gross made the announcement on Thursday in Manchester. The Shires Press Series will be a four course curriculum, taken over all four years of college, at the end of which Northshire Bookstore will print five copies of each students book and provide them with and ISBN and barcode, retail shelf exposure at both of Northshire's location, online listing of the book at Northshire's website, and royalty fees for any sales of the book. After the original five prints, further copies will be able to be printed at additional cost.

"We like it in large part because it democratizes publishing," said Morrow, "Partnering around a book and getting students to publish books is exciting. This is Karen's initiative, and we're thrilled to be involved."

The four required courses will be a freshman year writing sequence, a sophomore year course entitiled "Foundations in Book Publishing," a senior year publishing practicum, and one of several humanities electives, which can be taken either sophomore, junior, or senior year.

"Books are a central part of education generally, but at SVC they take on a bigger role," explained Gross. When students first arrive at the college, they receive a book signed by all the members of the faculty. When they graduate, they receive a second book, also signed by the faculty. The college calls this the "book ends" tradition.

"If you read the media, everyone says the liberal arts are not what you need, you need something that's career launching," said Gross, "What can we give as the humanities' deliverable? What will an employer who's considering hiring a humanities student be able to look at and know they want to hire that student? Writing a book." Similarly, she said, "What greater joy could you give to a family member than to see their child's name on a book? What better symbol of education?"

Morrow described this arrangement as the first of its kind, but he said that he hoped other institutions of higher learning will reach out to Northshire to start their own similar programs. Gross agreed, noting that any royalties earned by students will help defray the always rising cost of getting their education. "I hope other colleges will follow suit," she said.

Northshire started their ShiresPress publishing program about six years ago. Typically, a package in which the author receives in-store and online placement and royalties costs $299, plus per-book printing costs.

Jose Ferreras, a student at the college, already plans on enrolling in the program. He said he hasn't chosen which of his earlier works he wants to work on getting published yet, but he described one of his favorites as "Twilight-ish, but more well-written," a reference to Stephenie Meyer's popular vampire novels. "It's very excellent," said Ferreras of the program, "and I can't wait."

Gross said that if the program's model works for college students, the hope is for SVC to, "take those four courses and put them in a format that members of the community can take advantage of."

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB