Another small Vermont college, facing insolvency, will close

Goddard College in Vermont became the latest small liberal arts school to close, joining a wave of institutions that have made such announcements in recent months.

The college, which is outside Montpelier and has just 220 students, cited a “significant and persistent decline in enrollment since the 1970s” in a press release Tuesday announcing the decision to shutter at the end of the spring term. The school, whose alumni include actor William H. Macy and three of the four members of rock band Phish, had temporarily moved to online instruction ahead of the announcement. 

Founded in 1938, Goddard prided itself on a progressive education philosophy that “each person is truly unique.” There was a six-to-one student-faculty ratio, according to 2022 data from the National Center for Education Statistics. Students were encouraged to work with professors to direct their studies based on their interests and passions.  

Goddard College, a small private school near Montpelier, Vermont, announced that it will close its doors at the end of the school year.

Goddard College

“The closure of Goddard College is a significant loss for students in search of an alternative, progressive higher education,” Mark Jones, chair of the board of trustees, said in the statement. “The decision to close Goddard College was not made easily or quickly. With declining enrollment and financial insolvency looming, the Board was left with no other option.”

Institutions across the US — particularly small, liberal arts colleges — face an increasingly tough operational environments. A demographic shift that threatens lower enrollment, combined with rising costs of attendance, are just two of the challenges schools are dealing with. 

About 200 schools met at least three of the five metrics that Bloomberg used to identify rising pressure on non-profit higher-education institutions with less than 5,000 students, according to an analysis of federal education data. 

In Vermont alone, Green Mountain College and Southern Vermont College are among the small private schools that have closed their doors in recent years.

Enrollment at Goddard has fallen precipitously. The student body is down from over 1,900 students in the early 1970s, according to the school.

“Despite trying many different approaches including partnerships, Goddard College could not beat the trends of inflationary pressures, demographic shifts and changing educational preferences,” the college said in the statement. “The closure of Goddard College mirrors a trend seen in numerous higher education institutions across Vermont and the nation, all grappling with similar challenges.”

The school has no municipal-bond debt outstanding, according to its most recent Form 990 filing with the IRS.

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