Six colleges in southeastern Vermont have formed a partnership that will allow students at any of the schools to take classes at the others.
The agreement is part of a wide-ranging economic development effort in the region. Officials from the six institutions of higher learning met in Brattleboro Monday to sign off on the new Windham Higher Education Cooperative. The cooperative’s cross-registration agreement will enable students in degree programs to take up to one course each term at the other institutions.
Ellen McCullough-Lovell is president of Marlboro College, one of the institutions involved. She says the pact not only expands opportunities for students. It also reflects the colleges’ commitment to economic and work-force development.
"[We] understand our roles as some of the largest employers in the county, and our roles as the people who prepare new citizens, people who will not only hold jobs but invent jobs in Windham County," McCullough-Lovell says.
The partnership is part of a multi-town effort to create better wages and job opportunities -- and to keep young people from leaving southeastern Vermont. Patricia Moulton Powden is executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, the group behind the effort.
"So much of what we hear from employers now is their inability to find the right skills," Moulton Powden says. "And we hear from a lot from folks that are unemployed that they don’t have the skills to take jobs. So how do we make the linkage between our education and training infrastructure to help impart those workforce skills? Part of that infrastructure is these six colleges."
The newly formed cooperative will also share an internship program, supported by a grant from the Vermont Department of Labor. Joyce Judy is president of Community College of Vermont. She says the internships will help students gain workforce experience and build connections with area employers.
"As we all know, finding jobs oftentimes is as much about connections as it is about academic preparation," Judy says. "I think the combination of working closely with businesses and having the six colleges is a win for southeastern Vermont and I would like to see other parts of the state follow suit."
Community College of Vermont and Vermont Technical College plan to open a shared campus this fall in the Brooks House in downtown Brattleboro. The building is being renovated after a devastating fire in 2011. The two statewide colleges are among the six that have joined the Windham Higher Education Cooperative. The others are Marlboro College, Union Institute, Landmark College in Putney, and Brattleboro’s School for International Training.