CASTLETON—Castleton University announced a series of updates Thursday as part of its ongoing process to align its budget with current and future enrollment trends. The plan currently being implemented is a result of a four-month-long collaborative, exhaustive, and transparent approach to an organizational restructure that has identified cost-savings opportunities and growth initiatives.
The restructuring, which was announced in February in response to a 3 percent operating deficit due to a decline in its traditional first-year student enrollment, sought to align the university’s operating budget with the enrollment realities faced by colleges and universities across the country. The process was focused on enhancing the student experience, strengthening and expanding academic offerings, and positioning the university for sustainable growth into the future.
“I am proud of the work that our faculty and staff have done to put Castleton University on a positive trajectory for the future,” said Castleton President Dr. Karen M. Scolforo. “While we are saddened that some our staffing levels are affected by this process, we have maintained our focus on our students first and foremost throughout this process, and ultimately we feel strongly that the number of positions affected was minimized through strong collaboration.”
Over the course of the last four months, Castleton has reduced its overall staffing levels by roughly 5 percent through a series of incentivized retirements, non-reappointments, and ten staff layoffs.
“It took a lot of courage and creativity for President Scolforo to address the significant budgetary challenge Castleton faced when she took office,” said Vermont State Colleges (VSCS) Chancellor Jeb Spaulding. “In a short period of time, she has led the Castleton community through a transparent, engaged restructuring process and unveiled several new initiatives that together will set the university on a path for success. I am positive that Castleton will have a bright future with President Scolforo at the helm.”
According to Scolforo and other industry experts, the downward trends in traditional college-aged students nationally are expected to continue through at least 2029, some estimate by as much as 19 percent. “We needed to position ourselves with that in mind to be able to maximize our resources, to maintain affordability, and to continue to be an economic engine for the region and beyond,” Scolforo said. “This plan requires a two-year implementation period to fully realize the benefits of the restructure and we continue to keep a keen eye on the demographic trends that impact higher education nationally.”
During the four-month process, Castleton launched several new initiatives in an effort to attract students from outside of its traditional recruiting areas, and those efforts are reflected in a stronger incoming class than recent years. These new initiatives focus on scholarships for neighboring out-of-state counties, grants for students with high academic ability and low income, and articulation agreements with out-of-state community colleges like SUNY-Adirondack and SUNY-Orange.
“Our admissions team worked tirelessly to make these new initiatives happen and as a result, we are seeing positive momentum as we look toward the fall. We are also thrilled to collaborate more deeply with our partners at Community College of Vermont and the other institutions in the VSCS,” Scolforo said, referencing new program delivery slated for CCV Rutland and CCV Winooski this fall as well as other opportunities to share resources.
In addition to enrollment initiatives, three faculty task forces were convened to focus on the academic experience at Castleton. Tasked with identifying potential new programs, strengthening current offerings, and exploring alternative delivery models and revenue sources, the volunteer faculty groups not only identified savings opportunities but also growth potential.
The university has identified master’s degree programs in nursing and criminal justice as well as an innovative MBA program to add to its graduate offerings, while undergraduate programs such as archaeology, computer science, occupational therapy assistant, and physical therapy assistant are also being developed.
New delivery modules, including a concept similar to the Northeastern University Cooperative Education Model, fully-online graduate programs, distance education, and a burgeoning Fine Arts Academy for Early College students will enhance the strength of Castleton’s traditional liberal arts education.