Vermont State unveils faculty buyout plan in hopes of avoiding layoffs


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Dive Brief: 

  • Vermont State University unveiled its voluntary faculty buyout program this week, with the hope that enough employees will take the offer to avoid layoffs, according to a Tuesday statement. 
  • Up to 33 faculty members will be eligible for the buyout plan, which calls for them to teach through the 2023-24 academic year. At the end of the year, they would receive an additional amount equal to half of their current salary. 
  • Faculty have until Oct. 27 to apply for the program. That leaves just a few days for the university to issue layoff notices by Oct. 31, per the university’s contract with Vermont State Colleges Faculty Federation, a union representing part-time and full-time faculty. 

Dive Insight:

Vermont State University just launched in July, the result of a merger of three public colleges that were struggling with their enrollment and finances Castleton University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College.

But the nascent university has also struggled. Interim President Mike Smith recently announced the college is looking to scrap 10 academic programs, consolidate 13 others and cut up to 33 full-time faculty members. The faculty reductions, along with program changes, aim to reduce annual spending by about $3.4 million. 

The university also plans to raise faculty-to-student ratios from around 1:13 today to 1:18 in the future. 

Vermont State recently said it would finalize a faculty buyout program in a report to faculty, though it offered few details at that time. The report also said the university expected to achieve most of the faculty reductions through buyouts, but officials still expected layoffs. 

Tuesday’s announcement provides a deeper look into the buyout plan. The restructuring plan calls for reducing between 20 and 33 faculty positions out of the 207 the university currently has. 

In a statement, Smith cast the buyout as a “generous option” that could sidestep the need for layoffs. 

“It allows those who are ready to depart at the end of the calendar year to do so with additional financial support,” he said. 

Faculty who take up the offer will continue to receive tuition benefits for family members enrolled as of spring 2024 in undergraduate programs at Vermont State University or the Community College of Vermont. These benefits will be available to family members until they complete their programs, or for six years, as long as they stay continuously enrolled. 

Faculty not eligible for retirement benefits can get continued insurance coverage through January 2025, according to the buyout plan.

Smith also promised to issue suggestions for administrative savings by the end of October to address the university’s structural deficit. 

“There is a path forward if we work together to right-size this unified University and achieve both the savings and student-to-faculty ratios necessary to operate more efficiently in service to our students,” Smith said. 

Chris Reilly, president of the VSC Faculty Federation, said via email Tuesday that the university’s proposed cuts are larger than necessary and will hurt students and programs. Reilly said the three colleges that merged to form Vermont State have already reduced their faculty numbers over the past decade through layoffs and leaving vacated positions unfilled. 

“The roll out of the buyout proposal has also left faculty with more questions than answers,” Reilly said. “We need clarity from the administration as to what their plans are.”


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