Following days of pressure from its former leader, Southern Vermont College officials have, in a last-ditch effort to potentially save the school, told their accreditors they might be filing an appeal.
But David Evans, the college’s current president, who announced earlier this month the school would close at the end of the year, suggested he had little hope one final Hail Mary could revive SVC given the school’s steadily falling revenues, debt, and position with its regional accreditor, the New England Commission of Higher Education.
“I would love to be convinced that we have a really clear way forward. But I would need to see a lot more information than I have seen so far to believe that,” he said.
Karen Gross, the school’s former president, has launched a social media campaign to save the school, using Twitter to promote a crowdfunding campaign. She did not respond to an interview request.
“It’s stunning that people are so risk averse they can’t c value of innovation/change. Saving @SoVtCollege can b model 4 preserving small non-elite colleges. Notice of intent 2 appeal filed. Let’s try 2 do it. Naysayers: stand back; let us try,” she wrote on Twitter over the weekend.
NECHE commissioners voted in early March to withdraw SVC’s accreditation effective this summer over concerns about its financial viability. The school’s board of trustees, at basically the same time, also decided the school did not have a way forward, and voted to close.
Evans said the board has subsequently decided to file an intent to appeal with NECHE to give SVC’s leaders a little bit more time to explore some fundraising opportunities through Gross. The school now has two weeks from Thursday, when it filed its intent to appeal, to actually do so.
The board’s notice to NECHE was first reported by the Bennington Banner.
“The amount of new resources that the college would need to continue, and to appeal to NECHE successfully is in the many millions of dollars. So that’s a pretty heavy lift. But we wanted to leave the door open for just a few more days to see if that was a possibility,” Evans said.
Gross’s crowdfunding campaign on GoFundMe, meanwhile, had raised a little over $17,000 in 13 days as of Monday evening.
Evans has also urged students, who are actively transferring out to other colleges, not to change their plans because of the possibility of the appeal. After the Banner’s story broke, Evans wrote to students to tell them his “best advice” was that they keep working with the school’s transfer services team.
“Even in the best case, we will not know anything until close to the end of the school year, and for your security you absolutely must protect yourself by exploring and, if appropriate, committing to your future options,” Evans wrote.