As the Vermont State Colleges System contemplates significant changes to ensure that its colleges and universities continue to provide an affordable, accessible and student-centered education, Castleton’s future remains bright. The VSCS Secure the Future initiative outlines the challenges faced by not only the system, but by colleges around the nation. State college systems are always a sum of their parts, and Castleton remains a major force within the Vermont State Colleges System.
While we are not immune to the demographic shifts, increasing costs, and competitive pressures that all institutions like us face, we are enjoying growth despite this difficult environment. Under the leadership of President Dr. Karen M. Scolforo, the university has consistently shown the innovation, adaptability, and nimbleness needed to succeed and grow well into the future. These qualities are ingrained in our culture – continually meeting the changing needs of the community and workforce – yesterday, today and forever forward.
The evidence of our success is everywhere. A recent headline in the print edition of the Rutland Herald stated, “CU considers its future.” We have, in fact, considered our future.
What we found is that the future will be filled with successful outcomes for students, growth of our university, and financial strength. We are poised for success, today and tomorrow. This year, we saw our fourth consecutive semester of enrollment growth and admitted the largest incoming class in the University’s history, dating back to 1787. We added campuses in Bennington and Killington. We developed partnerships with Southwestern Vermont Health Care and Killington Resort to coincide with the academic programs in these new locations. We launched 21 new majors, minors, and certificate programs, and signed collaborative agreements with several community colleges to bring their graduates to Castleton. We embarked on major campus upgrades to our Fine Arts Center and Jeffords Science Center, which were largely funded by grants and our generous supporters. We are also a major economic driver in the region and have hired more than 30 people in the past year.
When we “considered our future,” we also determined there are many things that will never change. We will always hire expert faculty, provide first-rate instruction, and be a cultural hub and thought leader for our region. It shouldn’t be lost on anyone that we are doing all of this in a time of tremendous upheaval and disruption in higher education. We brought in the largest class in our history and exceeded our targets in an environment that is seeing two out of three colleges in the country miss their enrollment goals and the rate of college closures accelerating rapidly. We are expanding and growing at a time so many colleges are declining and contracting.
Castleton will always be here to serve our communities, but merely surviving isn’t the discussion we are having. We are building a future where we are bigger, stronger, and better than ever before. We will succeed because our faculty are passionate, our staff is dedicated, our supporters are generous, and our students and alumni are changing the world. There will always be a need for a career-focused liberal arts education. There will always be a need for professional training. There will always be a need for a residential college experience, and there will always be a need for alternative and innovative educational delivery methods. Castleton will meet those needs for generations to come.
I can say that I have considered our future. And, I can’t wait for what’s to come.
James Lambert is the director of marketing and communications at Castleton University.