Small Vermont college closing after steep enrollment dip

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Tuition revenue pressures from a sharp enrollment drop led Vermont's Green Mountain College to announce its closure after 183 years.

The school in Poultney announced Wednesday plans to close at the end of the spring semester after efforts to salvage the tiny liberal arts institution failed to materialize. The college’s enrollment has dropped roughly 45% in the last 10 years to around 450 undergraduate students, according to a Green Mountain spokesperson.

“Financial challenges are impacting liberal arts colleges throughout the country and Green Mountain College is no exception,” Green Mountain’s president Robert Allen said in a statement. “These financial challenges, the product of major changes in demographics and costs, are the driving factors behind our decision to close at the end of this academic year.”

The college issued $14.6 million of variable-rate bonds in 2008 through the Vermont Economic Development Authority. The bonds were redeemed in 2012, according to a filing on the Muncipal Securities Rulemaking Board's EMMA website. There does not appear to be any public debt outstanding, according to the firm ICE Data Services.

A July 2018 Moody’s report projected that sustained stress from declining tuition revenue and expense pressures would drive more private colleges to close or alter their business models. Newbury College in Brookline, Massachusetts, also announced plans to close at the spring semester citing enrollment challenges. Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, announced this month it seeking a possible strategic partner and may not be able to enroll classes this fall.

“The Green Mountain College closure resembles some of the other college closures and mergers we have seen with small schools, declining enrollment and declining liquidity that make it very hard to stay competitive,” said Dennis Gebhardt, an analyst at Moody's. “Small schools with declining enrollment means less money to invest in programs and faculty.”

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