From Records To Real Estate, How Do You Close Down A College?

Mar 12, 2019

Two small liberal arts colleges in Vermont will close at the end of this semester. Once students leave Green Mountain College and Southern Vermont College for the last time this spring, how will those schools go about actually shutting down their campuses?

Yves Bradley, a vice president at Pomerleau Real Estate, was the chair of the board of trustees for Burlington College when it closed in 2016.

"What we had a tendency to do as the board of trustees was believe that we were going to save the school. That comes at the price of maybe not necessarily believing that you're going to fail, which means that you don't really have a plan in place," Bradley said of his experience with the college closure process.

So that's Bradley's advice to school leaders: put together a detailed plan.

"Because what you don't want is to be forced to close by virtue of the fact that you've quite literally spent the last dollar and you're not done yet," he said.

Listen to Bradley's conversation with VPR's Henry Epp above. Find excerpts from the interview below.

Preserve student records

"The number one concern is to make sure that the students' records, their transcripts, are in a safe place and in a place that's readily accessible," Bradley said. "Not only for present students, but for past students, for the purposes of employment, graduate school, graduate studies, anything like that."

Guide students on future education

"At Burlington College we felt like we had somewhat of an obligation to try to help the students mitigate the circumstance of losing the school that they wanted to go to. And what that means is being very proactive in trying to help them find the next place," Bradley said.

"A place where they'll be comfortable, a place that will be as similar as possible to where they're leaving and one where they'll feel at least that they're able to continue their studies with as little interruption as possible — realizing that a college closing is a massive interruption in one's studies."

Figure out real estate next steps

"In our case [of Burlington College], our lender essentially foreclosed on us which meant that they took control of the buildings. But trying to understand what will happen to the real estate, and what the future of it is, is another one of the responsibilities," Bradley said.

"It's always better to do it while the college is still in business, because the longer that a college is closed — or any building is closed and underutilized — it decays. You know, like a car that you leave sitting or a house that you leave alone, it will begin to deteriorate."

Be a proactive planner

"Having a plan in place or being proactive is, again, one of the responsibilities that you have to try to assure an orderly shutdown and an orderly transfer of the closing of a school and what happens in the future with everything that remains of it," Bradley said.