Brand New College Rises As Union Institute Sells

/ Jun. 26, 2008 12:00am EDT

Brand New College Rises As Union Institute Sells

The historic Montpelier still known as Vermont College, will be Vermont College in reality once again.

Union Institute & University (UI&U) of Cincinatti and Vermont College of Fine Arts (VCFA) today announced they have completed the purchase agreement for the historic campus and its three Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs.

VCFA now owns and will operate the campus and three MFA programs as an independent institution. UI&U will continue to operate bachelor’s and master’s programs there, leasing offices and classrooms from VCFA.

The two higher education instutions have been working for two years to position VCFA to purchase the 33-acre campus and the MFA programs from UI&U. The $12.75 million price was made possible with funding from Community National Bank and National Bank of Middlebury, a guarantee from USDA Rural Development, assistance by the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), and $3.36 million in financing from Union Institute & University.

Vermont College of Fine Arts represents a new era for Vermont College, which has a history of more than 174 years of education in Vermont. VCFA has three low-residency MFA programs offering degree tracks in writing, writing for children & Young adults, and visual art.

The college was recently granted affiliation by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), as well as degree-granting authority from Vermont.

Vermont College of Fine Arts is the first new independent college formed in Vermont in 23 years, and the only institution of its kind—a low-residency graduate school devoted exclusively to fine arts education.

"We are thrilled to revive the Vermont College identity with a new graduate institution dedicated exclusively to the fine arts," said VCFA president Thomas Christopher Greene, an alumnus of the MFA in Writing program. "This campus has been an integral part of education in Vermont for almost two centuries, and we want to honor that tradition as we build on its vibrant history. We look forward to expanding Vermont College of Fine Arts to become a true national center for the fine arts."

The Vermont College of Fine Arts negotiations were completed by President Greene and VCFA vice president Bill Kaplan, a community member and real estate/financial management professional.

Union Institute & University acquired the Vermont College campus and programs from Norwich University in 2001. UI&U enrolls more than 1700 students from across the nation in low-residency undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral programs in a variety of fields, from education and criminal justice to interdisciplinary doctoral programs in low-residency programs and from centers in Ohio, Florida, and California.

Union Institute & University’s Board of Trustees, chaired by Vermont entrepreneur Lisa Lorimer, announced two years ago that it would sell the campus and programs in a strategic move to focus the university’s resources on programs and people rather than bricks and mortar. From the onset, UI&U’s Board of Trustees was insistent that the historic Montpelier campus continue to operate with an educational focus. Rather than sell to an outside entity, they elected to work toward selling it to Vermont College of Fine Arts.

VCFA currently has 250 students enrolled in three MFA programs, with 40 full-time employees and 60 part-time faculty. The Board of Trustees includes seven Vermont residents: Peter Richardson of Burlington (Chair), Kathleen Dolan of Barnard, Con Hogan of Plainfield, Mary Hooper, Mayor of Montpelier, Syd Lea of Newbury, Katherine Paterson of Barre, and Richard Saudek of Montpelier.

This summer, VCFA will start planning for new academic programs, building upgrades, staffing, and community programs. The institution plans to launch a larger capital campaign in 2009.

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