Dozens of schools attend SVC college fair

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BENNINGTON — Nearly 50 institutions sent representatives to a college fair Monday on the campus of Southern Vermont College, which will close after the spring semester because of mounting financial difficulties.

Sitting at tables that filled much of the gym floor in the Mountaineer Athletic Center, rows of college admissions officials from around New England, New York and beyond met with SVC students being forced to transfer elsewhere.

According to Daniel Summers II, SVC's vice president for enrollment management, more than 200 students — primarily those who won't be graduating in May — will be looking for another school to continue their education.

The college fair continued Monday evening, and another session is scheduled for today.

"We asked students to share with us any schools they are interested in attending," Summers said, and SVC staff reached out to more than 100 institutions "asking them to support our students in this transition.

"It is a early for them to make a final decision," he said of the students. "A lot of them have applied to schools, been accepted, are deciding which schools they are going to attend. So they have options now. They are establishing what the options are, what schools are going to give them for financial aid."

While most schools look for a commitment from students by May 1, Summers said "no one that I've seen is pressuring students to decide earlier than that."

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in nearby North Adams, Mass., has played a major role, Summers said, adding, "We put MCLA out there as the preferred school, because we felt financially and geographically and academically they matched the most within our mission as well."

But Vermont schools including Castleton University, Norwich University, Vermont Technical College and Community College of Vermont also have been very active in working with SVC students, he said.

Erinn Kennedy, assistant director of transfer admission at MCLA, said about 70 students from SVC have been accepted by the North Adams school, and special orientation events are planned to welcome them to the campus in the manner of first-year students.

Maurice Ouimet, dean of enrollment at Castleton, said nearly 30 SVC students have applied to the Rutland-area school, about 20 of those interested in Castleton's registered nurse bachelor's degree program, which is similar to one at SVC.

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There was interest as well in criminal justice and resort and hospitality management, he said, adding that Castleton is working with Killington Resort to offer the latter degree program.

The school also is offering "some pretty liberal transfer policies" to displaced SVC students, he said.

Norwich representatives said SVC students expressed the most interest in that school's criminal justice program, which is similar to one at the Bennington school, and nursing programs.

Summers said agreements for accepting transferred academic credits from SVC students are being concluded with a number of institutions, with many offering to accept up to 90 to 95 course credits toward to typical bachelor's degree requirement of 120 credits. MCLA has agreed to accept up to 105 credits, he said.

"I think our higher education colleagues have been very receptive," he said. "That's very comforting."

Prior to the college fair, Vermont Tech President Patricia Moulton said that school, which operates a nursing program in downtown Bennington, is ready to assist students with full- or part-time school options in that field and in radiologic sciences — another program now offered at SVC.

Moulton said her institution also will consider working with the Vermont state college system, the community college system and other partners to preserve or expand college level programming in the Bennington area.

CCV of Vermont President Joyce Judy said Monday that the Bennington-based community college facility and others around the state want to offer SVC students — as well as others from College of St. Joseph in Rutland and Green Mountain College, both of which also are closing after the spring semester — an additional layer or options while they consider how to continue their college careers.

Offering hundreds of courses annually, about half of those online and a sizable percentage also scheduled during the summer months, CCV can be an option to earn academic credits, either while working or as a full-time student, Judy said.

"Students can always use us as a bridge, and then apply next semester or next year [to a four-year-college]," she said. "That's a role we see for us."

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont, including the Bennington Banner, Brattleboro Reformer and Manchester Journal. Twitter: @BB_therrien


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