For the first time, a Vermont state college is entering into a partnership with a community college in another state. Lyndon State will offer classes this spring on a campus of Northern Essex Community College, in Lawrence, Massachusetts.
It’s no secret that state colleges in Vermont and elsewhere are seeing enrollments dip dramatically.
On the other hand, many urban community colleges lack the resources to start new programs their students want.
Lyndon State College President Joe Bertolino says exporting curriculum to Northern Essex Community College solves both of those problems in an innovative way.
“We’re the first and we’re very excited about that. We’ve been encouraged to be entrepreneurial in different ways and the truth of the matter is that higher education is struggling, not just in the state of Vermont, not just in New England, not just in the Northeast. We need to think differently if we are to be viable, competitive and sustainable,” Bertolino said.
Northern Essex approached Lyndon State at the suggestion of former LSC President Carol Moore, who was providing consulting services to the Massachusetts college.
Starting this spring, Lyndon State will offer — and collect tuition for — three of its own academic programs in space rented from Northern Essex: Music Business and Industry, Visual Communications and Computer Information Systems.
All three, says Bertolino, will benefit from the influx of the community college students. Graduates, he predicts, are likely to find markets for those skills close to home, just north of Boston.
Northern Essex President Lane Glenn says the new alliance makes it easier for two-year students to pursue bachelors’ degrees without switching schools.
“Like a lot of community colleges we primarily serve students within a 30-mile radius," Glenn explained.
“And those students, most of them, want to complete a four-year degree and very often there are things that get in their way. Our ambition was to bring that four-year degree as close to them as possible.”
Lyndon is now hiring an on-site coordinator, who will hire some adjunct teachers from Massachusetts. Others could travel from the Vermont campus.
Both presidents say the partnership will broaden students’ experiences while expanding academic choices. NECC students could spend time in rural Vermont, and Vermonters could get a taste of a diverse urban college campus.
Marketing will begin in about a month, pending approval expected from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.