Local News

CSJ to close this spring

By Katy Savage

RUTLAND— After unsuccessfully trying to form a partnership with another institution, the struggling College of St. Joseph is closing this spring.

President Jennifer Scott made the announcement to students Wednesday, March 20.  She said the college, which was about to lose accreditation, had an April 1 deadline to show the New England Commission of Higher Education that the financial situation had improved.

“It is with a heavy heart and great disappointment that I must deliver the news that our potential institutional partner has elected to not move forward with us,” Scott said in a news release. “Creating and implementing a thoughtful plan for a deep affiliation proved to be too great of a feat given our current accreditation deadline and critical financial condition.”

Attempts to reach Scott weren’t successful.

The College of St. Joseph, a small nonprofit Catholic institution, was founded by a group of women in 1956 as a teacher’s college.

The college has struggled with enrollment and revenue issues in recent years. Last year, the school had $500,000 left of a $5 million endowment.

The news didn’t come as a surprise to students and faculty. Many said they had anticipated it was only a matter of time before the college would close.

“I was really hoping it was going to work out,” said Athletic Director Megan Wilburg, who has been with the college for two years. “It’s definitely hard. None of us want to have to leave this place.”

The abrupt announcement months before the end of the semester left some scrambling for new jobs and new schools. The transfer application deadline for some institutions had already passed.

Freshman students studying in the CSJ library Thursday said they weren’t told about the financial situation before they applied.

“They made it seem like we’re going to get through this,” said student Shelby Grabowski. “I think they sugar coated it better than it actually was.”

Grabowski and her friend, Jessika Scott, said they liked the small feel of the campus, having graduated from West Rutland High School.

“It was close to home. I didn’t want to leave yet,” said Scott.

Sophomore soccer player Denilson Reyeson, who came to the College of St. Joseph with a soccer scholarship, said the closure wasn’t unexpected.

“I think everyone knew it was going to close eventually,” he said.

Reyeson, a business major from Indianapolis, is in the process of looking for other schools.

“It was last minute,” he said. “They kept a lot of things from us.”

The College of St. Joseph has formed a number of teach-out agreements. Vermont Technical College; the College of Our Lady of the Elms in Chicopee, Massachusetts; Norwich University, and Chatham University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania will take College of St. Joseph students.

A teach-out agreement with Castleton University was formed last September in anticipation of the campus shutting down.

“We’re so saddened by this,” said Castleton University President Karen Scolforo.

Scolforo said she formed a friendship with Scott through the turmoil.

“She has worked tirelessly to turn things around and I have been impressed by her,” Scolforo said. “I’m sorry for all of this.”

Green Mountain College in Poultney, which is also closing this spring amid financial struggles and declining enrollment, formed a teach-out agreement with Castleton.

Scolforo said CSJ students have been inquiring about Castleton since news that CSJ was losing accreditation.

She said Castleton will charge equivalent tuition, room and board as students are charged in their programs at CSJ.

It’s unclear what would happen to the buildings.

In a press release, Scott said she was determined to “keep home alive for a reimagined CSJ.”

“There are still opportunities to explore, but right now we are solely focused on our students, staff and faculty,” she said.

Board of Trustees chair, A. Jay Kenlan, said he was “sad” in a statement.

“We know in our hearts that we tried everything in our power,” said Kenlan.

One comment on “CSJ to close this spring

  1. No they did not try everything. Last year before Dr. Scott was hired, there was a list of possible revenue (diversified revenue) put forward. The Board of Trustees voted to remain open based on the projections. There was no attempt to try a single venture, some of which required little investment. Instead, there was expansion of payroll. Development continued to be unsuccessful and did not pay for itself, let alone provide revenue. Key personnel were either sidelined or ignored.

    Leadership, while present in some areas, was absent in others.

    Lack of trust in the people who could help and little to no experience in critical areas sealed the fate of the college. The most valued asset, the employees are now left to imagine if decisions different decisions were made a year ago, what could have been.

    The Board will cite decreased enrollment as the main contributor. However, small liberal arts colleges who are able to survive in the current environment have done so by reimagining how Post-secondary education institutions see themselves. Solutions are not going to come from academics alone. The majors offered by institutions could to be leveraged for possible revenue streams. Dr. Scott pursued an affiliation, another option. VSCS merged two campuses in the northern part of the state. Castleton has opened a early childhood learning center on campus and many other campuses are rethinking their operations.

    For small colleges to survive, leadership must rethink how it goes about the business of educating.

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