Burlington College goes the way of the dinosaur

Johnson State College got an interesting group of students this year, and I am not talking about Freshman. Burlington College, another liberal arts school in Vermont, closed down and was forced to relocate its students to other colleges of their choice.

Kimberly Schuyler, a senior, just transferred to JSC from Burlington College. “I was at BC for two years — from September 2014 until May 2016. I was a graphic design major with only two semesters left when the school closed,” said Schuyler.

After having a close freshman friend, Jillian Learned, go through this same process over the summer I wasn’t surprised that she wasn’t the only one. I learned about Schuyler’s transition from a class project where we had to photograph objects and explain their meaning. One of her photos was the Burlington College logo, with her caption explaining the bittersweet feelings she had about leaving.

Jane Sanders, wife of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, resigned as president in 2011 of Burlington College before the closure. According to the Boston Globe, “She was the head of the college during a massive land deal blamed by many as the catalyst for closure of the school.”

While Sanders was president, the school purchased over 32 acres for $10 million, with the hope of expanding the school’s enrollment. Burlington College never came close to meeting its goal.

“I believe the school closed from crippling debt,” Schuyler said. “We then had to sell off land and the school still had to close due to the amount of debt. I sent in my deposit the summer before the fall 2014 semester and they then sent out an email/paper in the mail stating that the school was on probation for its accreditation.”

After attempting to sell land, the school still had a gap of about $350,000, and the bank foreclosed on the school in April.

According to the Boston Globe, the faculty and staff felt there was an awkward pull with the elections taking place this year. “Bernie Sanders’ campaign defended his wife’s tenure at the school, saying she helped it climb out of debt and become accredited as a ‘master’s-level institution,’” said Akilah Johnson of the Globe.

Schuyler did not receive any emails that her college was closing until summer time. “After that, they sent out another email telling everyone that we had nine schools to choose from in the State of Vermont and we had five days to choose a school. I chose Champlain College as I live in Burlington, and they have a strong Graphic Design program.”

To her surprise, choosing her future got more and more complicated. “I then found out that they were not even a part of the teach out program and that I had to complete over 50 credits in order to receive a degree there,” said Schuyler. “In addition to that, I would have to pay 45,000 a year for in-state tuition. At the last minute, I applied to Johnson with the hopes that my credits would transfer.”

Freshman Jillian Learned went through a similar process. “It was my top school because I was going to be living in an apartment in Burlington, in walking distance of the college. They are also a very independent college, and the fact that they accepted a small number was very intriguing,” said Learned.
But Learned knew something was suspicious when she received her financial aid package and she only got $500. “I would have had to take out a $14,000 loan,” said Learned.

After meeting with the financial aid office, she was under the impression that the college was still afloat and doing everything it could do hold on. The next day, Learned turned on her laptop and saw news releases of the college’s closure.

Although both students had to make sudden decisions about their future, Johnson seemed to be a great choice. “I was accepted and the transition was very smooth, with all of my credits transferring,” said Schuyler. “Everyone was very sweet and accepting of all of the BC students, especially the woodworking students. After a bumpy ride, I’m very happy to be at JSC.”