The process of what comes next for three closed Vermont colleges has been a little different for each campus as they try to sell or reimagine how the physical infrastructure can be used. In at least one of these cases, that project has become mired in lawsuits.
Vermont Edition has been following the process of the three Vermont colleges that have closed this year — Southern Vermont College, Green Mountain College and the College of St. Joseph — and received an update on the individual situations from VPR's Nina Keck.
More from Monday's Vermont Edition: How State Colleges Are Navigating A Turbulent Time In Higher Education [July 15]
The board of trustees is trying to tie up loose ends and sell the campus and an art center to pay outstanding bills. David Newell, the chair of the college's board of trustees, said the asking price for the college campus is around $7.9 million.
There are some sticking points that are complicating any sale with Southern Vermont College. First is that some of the land that's included in the campus is protected — and the Everett Mansion building is on the national historic registry — so that may limit what can be done on campus. Also, there are two lawsuits against the college:
- Frederic Poses, a subordinate lender to the college, filed suit to ensure he gets his money back from any sale. According to the Bennington Banner, Poses provided $2 million in collateral to help the college secure $8.5 million in bond funding back in 2011.
- Bennington Center for the Arts founders Bruce Laumeister and Elizabeth Small have also filed suit. They gave the Bennington performance and gallery space to the college two years ago, and they have sought to have that donation agreement annulled.
David Newall said the parties will be meeting this week to try and find a formal path forward. He said any sale of the Bennington Center for the Arts would have to be approved by Laumeister and Small.
Newall added that the college will present a budget on how it plans to fund and maintain its campus and assets to all parties this week. He said the college has also pledged to keep all parties informed of any possible sale.
Note: VPR has not spoken to Poses or his attorney.
The campus is on the market through Colliers International. There's no list price, but college officials said it was appraised at about $20 million. There had been talk about two early offers that were on the table, however at this time those options seem to have fizzled.
Green Mountain College's board of trustees met for the last time at the end of June, and the administrative offices will be closing this month for good.
The board of trustees hired Boston-area accounting firm Verdolino & Lowey to act as a trustee and take over bill paying and maintenance after the college closes down this month. They'll make sure the grounds are kept up, the lawn is mowed, that type of thing – which is important to folks who live near the campus.
The college lost their accreditation to award undergraduate degrees, but college president Jennifer Scott has been working with Vermont Works Management — a private investment firm — to try and turn the campus into a full-service professional development center and start-up incubator and accelerator.
Going down this new path would make the campus a place where people could get training to earn higher level certificates, and there would be networking and business development opportunities for entrepreneurs, as well as help with funding strategies.
Rutland is a federally designated "Opportunity Zone," a category that was recently added to the federal tax code to encourage development in economically disadvantaged areas. Investors who target those zones can get significant tax breaks later.
Scott told VPR they've begun a feasibility study to try and better define what the region needs and what sorts of services they could offer, so as not to duplicate what's being offered elsewhere in the state. Scott said the study will also try and determine the best long-term funding methods.