Vermont State University (VTSU) Interim President Mike Smith released the voluntary faculty buyout plan to university faculty on Monday, Oct. 9, afternoon as part of the ongoing academic optimization efforts.
Optimization calls for programs to be either maintained, sunsetted, moved, or consolidated to save as much as $3.35 million annually, to meet student needs better and to grow more relevant and in-demand programs. Additionally, this plan seeks to increase student-to-faculty ratios from approximately 1:13 today to 1:18 in the coming years. The plan involves the reduction of between 20-33 full-time faculty positions out of the current 207.
The voluntary buyout plan recognizes that faculty members have different personal and professional goals, according to the news release. Some may elect to leave Vermont State University after the close of the academic year, forestalling the need for layoffs.
President Smith emphasizes that this voluntary buyout ensures a soft landing for those ready to transition, with financial support and a deep appreciation for faculty contributions.
“This voluntary faculty buyout plan goes beyond the numbers; it is a commitment to our faculty that shows gratitude for their dedication. It is a generous option for faculty members to choose their path and hopefully avoiding the need for layoffs,” said Smith. “It allows those who are ready to depart at the end of the academic calendar year to do so with additional financial support.”
Optimization of academic programs is a critical step in efforts to unify as one university and streamline program offerings to better serve students now and into the future.
Faculty who choose the buyout will teach through the end of the 2023/2024 academic year.
Faculty will receive the equivalent of one-half of their current annual salary at the end of the academic year.
In addition, faculty who are not eligible for retirement benefits under the collective bargaining agreement with the Vermont State Colleges Faculty Federation may continue to be covered under Vermont State Colleges’ group insurance plans (medical, dental, vision, and FSA) until January 2025.
Faculty will receive a continuation of tuition benefits for family members who are currently enrolled (as of spring 2024) in an undergraduate program at Community College of Vermont or Vermont State University. These benefits will be available until the completion of their undergraduate degree for a maximum of 150 credits or six years as long as the student remains continuously enrolled.
Eligible faculty have until Oct. 27 to apply for the voluntary buyout program. Per the terms of the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) and VSC Faculty Federation contract, notices of layoffs for the coming academic year, 2024-2025 must be made by Oct. 31. VTSU leadership intends to evaluate voluntary buyout requests and only issue layoff notices if necessary.
In addition to these reductions in faculty positions, Interim President Mike Smith has pledged to issue recommendations for administrative savings by month’s end, recognizing the need for greater efficiencies in administration and an “all in” approach to addressing the university’s ongoing structural deficit, which was budgeted at $22 million for fiscal year 2023.
In recent years, VTSU has received significant state investments and support from lawmakers and Governor Scott to stabilize the organization. In turn, the institution has a mandate for transformation by elected officials to unify the institution fully, find savings to achieve financial sustainability, and to modernize to meet the needs of students and the state now and in the future.
“There is a path forward if we work together to right-size this unified University and achieve both the savings and student-to-faculty ratios necessary to operate more efficiently in service to our students,” added Smith. “I made a commitment to issue a plan for administrative savings before month’s end and I intend to do that. We are all in this together, and together, we will emerge from this optimization process with a model for the nation for how to deliver affordable, rural, higher-education, training and certificates that grow our workforce and provide opportunities for students to succeed.”
Vermont State University combines the best of Castleton University, Northern Vermont University, and Vermont Technical College and serves students on five campuses and multiple learning sites as well as online. For more information visit: VermontState.edu.