by The Bridge staff
The Bridge: How you think CCV distinguishes itself?
Pres. Joyce M. Judy: What I’d like to do is talk about how we were created, because even though I think that the college, in the 40-plus years since we’ve been in existence, has changed a lot, there are still things that are very much in our core that we continue to value. In 1974, Gov. Deane Davis had this vision of how to provide a college education to people in a very rural state. He realized that you can’t do it in a highly traditional manner. You couldn’t take the model of a college campus with full-time faculty and expect to serve people in the Northeast Kingdom or Bennington, Brattleboro and St. Albans.
I think the second piece is Gov. Davis realized early on Vermont communities are incredibly rich with professionals. These highly educated people are often willing to share their expertise, but they are not going to become professors and do not want to teach full-time. Gov. Davis started by thinking, so, we’re going to take education to Vermonters in their backyards and create a college opportunity for people locally using local part-time faculty.
We started by creating centers throughout the state. Today we have 12: Newport, St. Johnsbury, Upper Valley (White River Junction), Springfield, Brattleboro, Bennington, Rutland, Middlebury, Chittenden County (Winooski), St. Albans, Morrisville, and Montpelier. These centers very much mirror their local communities. The center here in Montpelier looks very different from the center we have in Morrisville, and the center in Morrisville looks very different from the center we have in Chittenden County. We pride ourselves on saying we’re within 25 miles of 95 percent of the state’s population.
We also use technology. Our first online course was offered in 1996, long before it became a trend. Creating a very dynamic online program is a perfect way to create access for people who live in Vermont but cannot commit to coming one day a week to a center. For example, people in the military who wanted to continue their education could do it virtually. Families who had child care issues or transportation issues but who had access to the Internet could access college. Our online program wasn’t about getting a bigger audience outside Vermont. It was really focused on serving Vermonters. So, online courses have grown to be almost a third of our course offerings. Of the 1,000 courses we offer a semester, about 300 of them are online. Our first online course was “Introduction to Political Science.” We connected with Senator Leahy in Washington, and he did some live lectures for us during our first online course.
The Bridge: What kind of programs do you have?
Judy: We offer 20 different degree programs and six certificates. For example, we offer a standard liberal arts program, which is popular with students who want to transfer to a four-year school. If you think about it, the first two years of most college programs for a four-year degree consist of very similar courses: English composition, Introduction to Psychology, some science, some math. If a person is really thinking about transferring, oftentimes a liberal studies degree gives them those two years that they need to transfer. Beyond that, we offer an array of courses and programs, things like our medical office assistant, business, and digital marketing programs.
We have a certificate program in Allied Health. We work very closely with Vermont Technical College and their nursing program. Students come to CCV and take their first 24 credits. They take English composition, nutrition, human anatomy, and physiology, and then, when they transfer to Vermont Tech in the nursing program, all they need to do is take their nursing courses. It is a great way for people to get started. We do a lot with other schools. They can come here, save $10,000 a year, and then transfer to the University of Vermont, with guaranteed acceptance, and get their four-year degree. That is a very common path.
The Bridge: We were looking at some of the major issues in higher education in the nation and in Vermont, for example, student debt, institutional debt, the shift from tenured faculty to adjunct faculty, etc.
Judy: How about I take each one of those separately, because those are issues we wrestle with every day?
The Bridge: Sure.
Judy: In order to keep Vermont’s economy vibrant and growing, it’s got to have a work force that is skilled. Whether we like it or not, we are the school that serves Vermonters. Vermonters make up 95 to 98 percent of our student population. There are a couple of things I want to say about student debt before I give some statistics about CCV. Like many others, I also think that student debt is a huge issue. I think if you ask the lay person on the street, the average debt load of a student at many four-year schools is to the point where it is just unrealistic. Students are in debt $150,000 to $200,000 dollars. Those are horror stories. But in Vermont, within the state colleges it is around $20,000, and at CCV it is around $10,000. One of the statistics we are particularly proud of is that 50 percent of CCV students graduate debt free.
The Bridge: How do you do that?
Judy: The average debt of graduates who borrow is $12,000. Real savvy Vermonters right now can fund their education in some pretty inexpensive ways. At CCV students can take a full academic load or they can take one course at a time. We have students who will take one course a semester for six or seven years to get their degree. So they pay as they go. To go to school full time at CCV is $5,700. That is one-third of the cost of the University of Vermont. If you are a savvy student and you want a degree at UVM, you can start at CCV and then graduate from UVM. It is the same at Castleton; it is the same at Vermont Tech.
The Bridge: How do you feel about the problem of teachers on a professional tenure track and the tendency on the part of schools to use untenured adjunct professorships. Do you think that is attacking the quality of instruction?
Judy: Let me talk about that from the CCV experience. The faculty at CCV is 100 percent part-time. We have no full-time faculty members. And it was this way from the very beginning. In 1970, when the whole concept of CCV was being developed, there was quickly the realization that they couldn’t do it with a full-time faculty, because you need an English composition teacher in Newport, and you need one in Brattleboro, and you need to offer a section in Bennington, and you need to have one in Montpelier.