- The Vermont College of Fine Arts announced this week that it will move in-person residencies next year from its Montpelier location to the campus of Colorado College, a liberal arts institution about an hour’s drive south of Denver.
- The art college’s leaders cast moving the residencies, which will be relocated by summer 2023, as a way to provide better resources for students while freeing up funds currently used to maintain campus buildings. They plan to use the savings for student scholarships and program investments.
- VCFA is working with real estate firm White and Burke to explore the best uses for its underused campus buildings. In an FAQ, the college said it currently has seven tenants and “would like to see these organizations stay on campus and thrive.”
VCFA is a 14-year-old art college focusing on low-residency graduate education. It offers several programs spanning from film to graphic design that each have winter and summer residencies. None of the residencies overlap because of space restrictions, VTDigger reported. The publication said the school is ending its on-campus programs and will no longer host students on the Montpelier site.
Although VCFA is a small private nonprofit institution focusing on a particular academic niche, its choices about the in-person components of its education are notable. They come at a time when institutions across higher ed are considering the right mix of remote and in-person education. Leaders are also examining new models and partnerships as the financial effects of the pandemic reverberate.
Starting next year, VCFA will move the summer residencies to Colorado College and host the winter residencies virtually. The college’s administration and full-time staff will continue to work in one of the campus buildings, called College Hall. Meanwhile, some staff members will have to travel to Colorado during the summer residencies.
No faculty will be terminated but a “limited number of staff” will be impacted, according to the college.
VCFA President Leslie Ward did not answer a series of questions from Higher Ed Dive by publication time Thursday.
The 31-acre Montpelier campus has about a dozen buildings. The college received about $545,000 in rental income in fiscal 2021, according to tax documents. Its buildings and improvements were worth about $16.2 million that same year, a financial audit shows, meaning the college could potentially make millions by selling parts of its property.
The sale of buildings could also mark a departure from how the land has been historically used. Although VCFA is less than two decades old, the Montpelier campus has hosted educational institutions for over 150 years, according to the institution’s website. Most recently, in 2008, VCFA bought the campus and acquired three master’s of fine arts programs from Union Institute & University, which had owned the property since 2001.
VCFA leaders said moving the residencies to Colorado College will foster interdisciplinary study and collaboration. That’s because all six in-person residencies will be offered concurrently for the first time.
“We are excited about the opportunities this new home for our summer residencies affords,” Ward said in a statement. “In addition to offering exceptional facilities that will better serve the needs of VCFA students and faculty, Colorado College shares VCFA’s values, sense of innovation, and commitment to the arts.”
The art college had about 370 students in fall 2020. Enrollment ticked up in 2020 but slipped as students took leaves of absence, and about 340 are enrolled currently, Ward told VTDigger.
VCFA brought in about $10.4 million in revenue in fiscal 2021, though it had a roughly $25,000 deficit that year, according to tax documents.
VCFA said it is not closing and doesn’t plan to combine with Colorado College. VCFA leaders selected Colorado College as the new host for summer residencies after considering campuses both in Vermont and other locations.
They say VCFA will continue to be authorized by the State of Vermont and accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
“Our campus facilities and the resources needed for delivering outstanding residencies have not kept pace with the needs of our programs,” VCFA said in a Q&A posted on its website. “Conducting our summer residencies on another campus offering full amenities allows VCFA to provide the exceptional learning experience our students expect.”
Those amenities include screening rooms, auditoriums, exhibition spaces and athletic facilities. Colorado College’s students and employees will be allowed to attend public residency events, “broadening the opportunity for audience engagement,” the college said.
VCFA faculty members will continue to provide instruction to the college’s students. Tuition will not change for the 2022-23 academic year. VCFA’s most expensive two-year program, graphic design, is estimated at $60,476 for tuition, housing and meals.
Correction: A previous version of this article misstated VCFA's revenue and deficit for fiscal 2021. They have been updated.