Rural Economies Part I: college educations
One of the loveliest things about northeastern Vermont is how rural and remote it is. This is also one of the hardest things, especially for younger people. Case in point? The recent announcement that the Vermont state college system would be voting on closing down some of their campuses, primarily the ones in rural areas including the only one in northeastern Vermont and the only one close to northeastern Vermont.
Riva and many others wrote letters (see Riva's below) to protest the sudden announcement and upcoming vote, and for now the vote is suspended and conversations are (hopefully!) in the works to preserve these campuses and to continue investing in accessible education for rural Vermonters. We can't imagine this is a unique situation for Vermont, rural areas around the country are likely addressing similar situations. Especially in the wake of COVID-19 and so much of education happening online for now, the question for everyone becomes what do we want education to look like and how do we make it accessible to everyone?
I was very distressed to hear about the vote to close campuses in the VT State Colleges system. I live in the NEK. Currently I work in Montpelier, and it took me 1.5 years to find my job -- many people I know in the area have to commute long distances for work. Closing down these campuses and laying off 500 people is a disaster in the small rural economy that is the NEK. Rural character is at the core of Vermont, but we cannot maintain and sustain it without state investments in the people and the economy of rural counties.
At a personal level, one of my children has Down syndrome and it has long been my hope that my daughter could attend college courses at Johnson while still living at home with support from her parents. For alternative students like my daughter, or first-generation college students, or low-income students, a commute to the Champlain Valley to attend college is simply not an option.
While this may be a responsible decision looking at a Profit & Loss statement, it is a completely irresponsible decision in looking at the character of Vermont's rural counties, the vitality of the rural economy, and the future of the youth and students living in rural Vermont.
Please support investing in Vermont's state colleges and keeping campuses across the state, to support the population that lives all across the state. Vermont is more (or it should be more) than the Champlain Valley.