PLAINFIELD, Vermont – When Justin Cote and his partner started a vegetable farm six years ago, they got an important and supposedly reliable early customer: nearby Goddard College said they would buy all the Chinese cabbage they could grow.
Goddard remains an important customer for the two-acre Flywheel farm in Woodbury. In the school kitchen, however, a high turnover was recorded, which put the creditors to the test in the autumn due to financial problems.
“It always feels like it could evaporate at any moment,” Cote said, flicking his fingers lightly.
The financial problems or widespread closures affecting a growing number of colleges and universities affect not only students, teachers and staff, but also the local economy, often in rural areas where they are between employers and consumers. For example, according to Vermont’s Board of Higher Education, Vermont has the highest number of higher education institutions per capita in any state.
“It will be a reorientation of economic prosperity,” said senior economist Jonathan Rothwell of Gallup. He noted that the closure of universities is closed and the impact on their communities could be in line with the impact of the declining manufacturing sector. in some areas.
“Places that are heavily dependent on small private universities or even large private universities could be under significant pressure and weakening,” said Rothwell.
According to the US Department of Education, higher education in the United States has an industry of $ 364 billion a year, with nearly 4 million employees. Rothwell said the sector is doing more in rural areas by not only promoting the local labor market and spending money, but also by getting people to settle in places they would not likely otherwise go.
However, many private universities are under financial pressure as spending increases and enrollment decreases overall due to demographic change, increasing enrollment, and a change in student taste. According to the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, at least 22 private non-profit organizations have been closed since 2013 that have not been for profit for four years.
Moody’s, the bond rating agency, said the closing rate of private two- and four-year non-profit institutions was eleven years between 2015 and 2017. The number of closures will continue to increase in Moody’s projects. Private universities are at greater risk, analyst Dennis Gephardt said, “not just the small ones but the little ones as well”.
It was not until this year that Green Mountain College, another Vermont institution, announced the closure. Hampshire College in central Massachusetts is looking for a fusion partner. The University of Providence, Great Falls, Montana, which has also been paroled by her accredited, although this warning has been lifted, plans to cut down 12 major races, six minors, a graduate program and several sports teams.
Mount Ida College in Newton, Massachusetts was closed last year. 280 teachers and employees and 77 employees were hired without work. Newbury College, Brookline, Massachusetts, will cease operations at the end of this semester after creditors put it to the test for financial problems.
Goddard closed its traditional housing program in 2002, also in the midst of financial difficulties, and enrollment for the remaining campus programs has dropped from 804 in 2010 to 409 this year, according to the university. The school was tested by its accreditation agency in the fall because of concerns over its financial resources, organization and government. If you lose your accreditation, students will no longer be able to use state funding there.
Nevertheless, the university with its 60 staff on the Plainfield campus remains an important local business, according to a spokesperson. This makes it one of the largest employers in the city with less than 1,300 inhabitants. Although it pays only a small amount of property taxes, like other nonprofit universities that can not be taxed, it makes another contribution, such as paying one-fifth of the municipal wastewater bill.
Other expenses support directly neighboring companies. The university buys $ 100,000 a year in food, according to its chief executive Jon Hilyard; Much of it, he said, tries to find him on the spot.
Country Bookshop, one of the few businesses in Plainfield, sees more traffic when Goddard students are on campus, said Ben Koenig, owner of the business, whose huge collection is stuffed from floor to ceiling in the maze of an old building ,
As a Goddard student, Koenig does not track the share of sales directly related to the university, but said the school’s presence boosts his business.
“I do not want to see her around, and that would have an impact,” Koenig said.
Diana Batzel also sees the benefits of the school. The co-owner of Marshfield Inn & Motel, a few miles from Goddard, said the loss of the university was a success and would lead to changes in the economy. For example, fewer guests say the inn is buying less ingredients from local farms such as eggs and maple syrup for breakfast.
“It’s like having a network for many other little things you would not even think about,” Batzel said.
Immediately after Green Mountain announced that it would close at the end of the academic year, Jeff King, president of Poultney’s local selection committee, wondered what impact that would have on the companies and staff at the university they belong to. of houses in the city. He said he hopes it will take time to understand the implications.
It’s “a big blow,” King said. “But we have to overcome this hunchback.”
In Springfield, Kentucky, St. Catharine College closed in 2016, occupying between 500 and 600 students and 118 full-time positions. Much of the city’s population has “suddenly disappeared,” said Daniel Carney, executive director of the Economic Development Authority of Springfield-Washington County.
“It’s a trickle-down effect for all sorts of small businesses, restaurants, houses,” he said.
The rental of homes has suffered a special blow since the closure, Carney said. Another blow was for the workforce. The small town university is a local channel for health and education professionals, who may find it difficult to recruit in rural areas, he said.
Closed in 2017, St. Joseph’s College annually attracted nearly 1,000 students to the small town of Rensselaer, Indiana, with fewer than 6,000 residents. Mayor Stephen Wood said the closure of the community cost between 180 and 200 jobs. An immediate price was also raised on the revenue of the city’s public services, Wood said.
Private, nonprofit universities in smaller communities are often important employers and can increase economic activity by attracting students who buy and eat locally, said Hal Hartley, vice president of the Council of Independent Universities.
“For a small university in a small community, that can make a big difference,” Hartley said.
Where universities do not survive, there are job losses, vacancies and long-term economic prospects in the communities.
In Vermont, many locals said that they were not disturbed by Goddard’s recent problems. They were confident that the small university will join as it did in the past.
Goddard President Bernard Bull, who took the job after the school was put on probation, is optimistic that he will be able to continue his business by maintaining the required registration to reach the income goals for the registration. He said he also hopes to increase the Goddard facilities that would provide stability.
“It would be much less worrying about the financial ups and downs,” said Bull.
But some, like Cote, the farmer, are still worried.
“It’s like something is dying out,” Cote said. “You’re not just going to want to sit there and just want to leave something like that because you could never build it again.”