Thrive Policy Packet, October 2020

This is a lengthy and detailed document with numerous references and is best viewed via download.

Thrive Policy Recommendations:

  1. Increased state investment in VSC in order to substantially reduce in state student tuition for Vermonters.
  2. Dissolution of physical Chancellor’s office (with its annual budget of approximately $8 million dollars). Since 2012, the OC budget has increased 41.7% and its staff increased by 21%. We must scale back the only non-revenue generating office in the VSCS.
  3. Chancellery functions carried out throughout the VSCS (allows for consolidation of back functions, such as HR, payroll). 
  4. The implementation of the “strong President” model (what Colorado was formerly using) – VSCS Presidents would fulfill Chancellor duties on a rotating 2-3 year Chancellor position OR Chancellor position carried out by a “Council of Presidents, with a rotating Chair position.  
  5. Chancellor’s office functions supported by separate state appropriations, eliminating the need for the schools to individually finance the OC out of their budget, saving approximately $1.6 million from each institutions’ budget. This would mirror the process in PA, in which the OC has its own state appropriations and oversight from the legislature. The Chancellor’s office would then have to justify any increases to the OC budget through the legislature directly as opposed to raising the campus’s “payment.” Currently, we believe that our OC budget is grossly out of proportion with the size of our state system. PASSHE’s OC budget is approximately the same as the VSCS’s OC budget, while overseeing 14 universities, thousands of degree programs, and over a hundred thousand students. (PASSHE has consolidated a few back-office functions but have maintained regional accreditations, regional administrations for the campuses).  
  6. System-wide re-branding to the Vermont State University system with the institutions retaining their autonomy and individual regional identities (Example: SUNY). This would result in a reversal of the Lyndon-Johnson merge.  
  7. Retention of separate regional accreditations for VSC institutions retaining their separate Presidents, CFOs, and marketing/admissions teams. We seek a decrease in administrative bloat and believe that based on the evidence, a single-accreditation and system-wide approach will not reduce administrative bloat and will increase the need for mid-level management while decreasing faculty and instructional expenditures (see Connecticut system for example of increased overall cost due to system-wide approach and stream-lining instruction).  
  8. New technologies for teaching must be decoupled from intentions to cut labor costs. On-line and telepresence courses must be offered to satisfy a need and demand from Vermonters, not as a default due to austerity policy nor as a pie-in-the-sky SNHU-lite dream. We also must be prepared, as a system, for collective student backlash to remote and on-line learning – a backlash that has been brought forward due to the pandemic and evidenced in a variety of mediums. Considering this recent social and political history, it is not the time to implement the use of wholly on-line offerings for any aspect of a campus-based general education.
  9. Rebuilding and reinvesting in the campuses and their academic programs. We must re-invest in the liberal arts/humanities as these programs have been greatly reduced over the last twenty years (to the point of almost extinction at Lyndon). These programs foster and promote active civic engagement. During a pandemic that has exposed inequalities across a multitude of our institutions, it is unconscionable that any VSCS administration would consider the wholesale elimination of history, political science, sociology, and the humanities at any of our public campuses. These are not subfields; these are the very foundations of a democratic society.
  10. Accountability for our leadership in the system. The legislature must create guidelines and mechanisms for administrative oversight. We propose a comprehensive independent audit, including itemized budgets for each VSCS campus (separating NVU into its three distinct campuses). We ask that the legislature maintain a keen eye towards major restructuring activities through the separate education committees, ensuring that decision making is shared in a much more transparent and vertically and laterally integrated manner.