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Jobs Cut As Lyndon State Unveils New Budget Strategy

Lyndon State College announced five staff cuts Wednesday as part of a new budget strategy formed over the past few months.

The layoffs come as the college is confronting declining enrollments and stagnant state support.

Lyndon State College President Joe Bertolino says the decision was heartbreaking, but it was necessary as the institution adjusts to a new paradigm in public higher education.

"Many Vermont and New England schools are in this predicament. There are deficits, declining enrollment; the demographics have shifted," he said.

Instead of expecting more money from the cash-strapped state government, Bertolino asked his budget committee to come up with a new strategy to adjust to these realities and deal with a $3.1 million budget shortfall.

Vermont's funding for public higher education is among the lowest in the nation, which causes state colleges to rely increasingly on student tuition, fees and philanthropic giving to meet their needs.

Bertolino says the new Lyndon State budget meets those needs and doesn't depend too much on state funding that isn't likely to increase.

Instead, the new strategy is to find revenue elsewhere, even if the money's not coming from inside Vermont.

"Lyndon State, we need to remember, has a series of very high profile, nationally ranked niche programs in atmospheric science, electronic journalism, music business industry, et cetera," he said.

So the college is marketing some of those programs to students through a partnership with the Northern Essex Community College in Lawrence, Mass.

"Where students could, at NECC, complete not just their associates degree at NECC, but also a bachelors degree without having to be physically present at the Lyndon State College location here in Lyndonville," he said.

While the job cuts and the change in general has been difficult for the school, Bertolino said he was impressed with the effort the community put in to prevent the budget gap from taking a larger toll.

"I mean $3.1 million, in terms of a deficit, is the equivalent of 62 jobs here," he said.

Bertolino says that barring any unforeseen circumstances, he doesn't think there will be any more bad news for Lyndon State employees this year.