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Statement from Dr. David R. Evans, President, Southern Vermont College, Regarding the NECHE Appeal

I regretfully announce that Southern Vermont College (SVC) is withdrawing its notice of intent to appeal with our regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE).

We initiated our appeal to support conversations that the Board of Trustees and I were having with a potential partner/acquirer, who might carry on the College’s critical mission of helping students from diverse backgrounds to define and fulfill their potential. “We felt an obligation to explore any avenue that would enable SVC to continue,” said Ira Wagner, Chair of the Board of Trustees.“Filing the intent to appeal our accreditation decision last week was part of keeping that option alive for these discussions.”

Unfortunately,that potential partner/acquirer was unable to raise the funds required to support our appeal to NECHE and meet other critical parameters, which did not suggest real promise for finding the much more substantial funding necessary for the college to continue operations. We have therefore decided to withdraw the appeal, conserve our limited financial resources, and focus our dedicated faculty and staff on our top priority: educating our students and completing their academic year.

Everyone at SVC deeply appreciates the heartfelt demonstrations of support from our various communities as we go through this extremely difficult and painful closure process. The work of the college has always been upheld by idealism and optimism, and this support has demonstrated the durability of the college’s character.

However, the reality of SVC’s situation is that we would need a very large infusion of monetary support to have any chance of success in appealing to NECHE, much less of continuing operations in an effective and ethical way.

I am sincerely sorry that our filing of the appeal has raised hopes that have not been met.

Dear Members of the SVC Community

This letter is to inform you about SVC’s circumstances following our show-cause hearing with the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) last Thursday, February 28.

Following that hearing, the SVC board of trustees held a special meeting on Friday, March 1, to determine how best to proceed.

At that meeting, the board voted, with sincere regret, that SVC must close at the end of the spring semester.

On Saturday, March 2, the college received notice that NECHE Commissioners voted to withdraw SVC’s accreditation effective August 31, 2019 based on institutional resources. This extended date should give us a chance to work with students who need only a few classes, or who need to meet other graduation requirements, to award them an accredited SVC degree before the end of the summer.

All students who complete graduation requirements this semester will also receive an accredited SVC degree.

Please note that NECHE’s concern was limited to SVC’s finances only. The quality of the education we offer, institutional integrity, the transferability of courses, and the value of our degrees, are not in question.

Our highest goal is to protect continuing students as much as possible and ensure that they can continue their education with minimal disruption, and we have already taken extensive steps towards this end.

We have in place a preferred teach-out agreement with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts that provides clear pathways and financial equity for most SVC programs. MCLA will launch a special website, www.mcla.edu/svc, this afternoon with details specifically for our students on all aspects of transferring there.

For those programs without a direct match, and for students who would like to explore other options, we continue to work with multiple transfer partners, including Norwich University, Castleton University and others, to provide the best possible opportunities for students. We will also provide information about various financial aid matters within the next few days.

We will soon have additional institutions on campus to support students as they determine how best to continue their educations. As more information becomes available, we will share it on the SVC homepage and through e-mail communication.

For employees, we will provide additional information soon. We are taking steps to comply with all applicable employment regulations and to provide support such as resume workshops and placement assistance where possible. We have notified local colleges about SVC’s closure and asked that they give candidates from SVC particular consideration. I have notified the presidents of all Vermont private colleges and all the institutions in our athletic conference to be especially alert to opportunities for our staff and faculty.

Over the past few weeks, we have continued our longstanding aggressive efforts to secure additional philanthropic support and seek potential strategic alliances that would strengthen the college and secure its mission into the future.

During recent days, the board, the administration, and our attorneys have continued a careful analysis of the college’s financial condition, including the clear adverse impact on future enrollment caused by publicity around the show-cause hearing.

For ethical reasons, once we learned of the hearing and pending its outcome, we ceased recruitment activities, and this decision, while certainly the right one, has also been a major factor in these deliberations, as it inevitably had a negative impact on next year’s enrollment projections and made it clear that there was no convincing way forward. However, we will continue exploring options that might make a difference as long as possible.

This is not an outcome anyone desired or sought, but given our specific financial challenges and lack of resources, regional demographics, the enrollment challenges facing small private colleges throughout the country, and increased scrutiny from our accreditor, it is the most responsible path.

It continues to be an honor to serve SVC and our students.

Sincerely,

David R. Evans, Ph.D., President

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