The wider community was told time and again that Marlboro College campus was in no danger of imminent closure. This timeline of actions and statements was assembled by Becca Boyden, daughter of Roland Boyden who was a founding faculty member of the college, acting president, dean, and trustee.
September 18, 2016 New semester brings big changes on Marlboro College campus by Chris Mays (courtesy Brattleboro Reformer) “Two goals for this year involve continuing the upward trends in recruitment of students and fundraising. The latest drive saw the college take in donations at a rate of more than 25 percent of its previous record of about $1.74 million. The hope had been to raise $1.85 million for the annual fund, which goes toward operations. Instead, the $2 million mark was surpassed.”
September 1, 2017 It Takes a Community to Turn Challenge into Opportunity, By President Kevin Quigley “Since the college’s inception, all community members have been invited to have a hands-on role in crucial matters that affect Marlboro. . . . This summer we launched an action-planning process designed to actively engage all community members in crafting strategies and implementing solutions to four immediate challenges: enrollment, marketing, curricular innovation, and student life.”
March 22, 2018 Despite financial and enrollment woes, Marlboro College president optimistic “But Quigley believes the college is well-positioned to weather the storm.
Quigley also noted that Marlboro College will remain transparent in its efforts to reduce its structural deficit while developing a strategy for its long-term success.”
July 2018 Reimagine Marlboro Project Begins. A committee of faculty, staff and students set about mapping Marlboro College assets and values. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
August 29, 2018 Survival of the Smartest: Vermont’s Colleges Must Adapt as Pool of Potential Students Declines Seven Days Marlboro College president Kevin Quigley was still smarting from a Boston Globe story earlier this month about higher education in New England when he spoke to Seven Days. The story reported a gloomy outlook for small private colleges from the ratings company Moody’s and used the word “struggling” in the headline. “That’s not a word that I accept for Marlboro, for a variety of reasons,” he said. “I don’t agree with it.” He insisted the college will recover from the strong “headwinds” that all schools are facing. “I’m a glass half-full guy. And I look and say, `we’ve got some remarkable assets.’ And to just say we’re `struggling’ suggests we’re in a place where I don’t think we are,” he said.
September 2018 Reimagine Marlboro Project Results make the “Marlboro Promise” of Clear Writing, Plan of Concentration, and Self-governance. Process begins to realign curriculum and student services. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
October 2, 2018 Marlboro College confident despite scrutiny from accreditors Berkshire Eagle “Still, Marlboro College president Kevin Quigley sounded a confident note this week, and said that NECHE, the federally-recognized regional accreditor for the six-state region, had ‘with some frequency’ looked in on the small liberal arts college over concerns about its enrollment and finances. ‘This is not new to us in our 45-year history with our accreditors,’ Quigley said.”
Early November 2018 Trustees Create Strategic Options Task Force with a goal of preserving Marlboro’s pedagogy, people and place into the foreseeable future. Task force included 2 alumni with 2 alumni trustees, 1 parent of alumni trustee, 1 non-alum academic trustee, 2 respected tenured faculty, 1 current student. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
Late November 2018 Task Force identifies 3 options. After crunching mountains of data, three options emerge to explore: 1. Create a plan for ethical closure, 2. Go it Alone, 3. Explore partnership options. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
December 2018 EY Parthenon hired to help explore partnership option. Data further broken down to research options to close ethically or go it alone. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
January 2019 Marlboro has renewed its commitment to its mission through the Re-Imagine Marlboro project. A committee of faculty, staff, and students have been working for several months to provide greater clarity around our academic model and to make real connections between what students learn in Marlboro’s innovative liberal arts curriculum and the expectations from employers and graduate programs. One of the outcomes of this project is the articulation of Marlboro’s core strengths and ultimately the “Marlboro Promise” that all Marlboro students will graduate with the following transferable skills: to write with clarity and precision; to live, work, and communicate in collaboration with others; and the ability to manage a complex project from idea to execution. Source: Roots alumni newsletter marlboro.edu
January 2019 EY Parthenon conducts focus groups with faculty, staff, and students on campus and interviews Board of Trustees members and Senior Team to prep for partnership search option. Task force continues to research closure and going it alone. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
February 2019 List of prospective partners developed. Based on research, EY Parthenon compiles a list of over 300 prospective partners that could complement or align with Marlboro’s priorities and pedagogy. Task force continues to explore ethical closure and go it alone options. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
March 2019 Potash Hill Reimagining Marlboro, By Kevin F. F. Quigley Together, the faculty developed the “Marlboro Promise.” Alongside this faculty work, we also set out to reimagine our admissions work and strengthen support for student success. In August, we welcomed Fumio Sugihara as dean of admissions and financial aid. . . . Fumio brings a breadth of experience at liberal arts colleges and a data-driven, innovative approach to the challenging work of admissions. He has already begun to incorporate the Marlboro Promise in communications to prospective students. Working with consultants, Marlboro is also developing a new website built around the promise, due to be launched later this spring.
March 2019 Request for Partnership Vision packets go to 70 organizations narrowed from 300+ options. Task force continues to explore close and go it alone options, as well as “ethical exit strategies” for close now. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
March 25, 2019 Potash Hill “The Reimagining Marlboro effort addresses the longstanding concern that while the Marlboro experience is extraordinary, the college is not delivering that experience evenly to every student. For Marlboro to succeed and thrive, it must be able to make that promise to every Marlboro student—not just those students who become our success stories, buying into our model and stepping up to the challenge of their own initiative. Although still a work in progress, the ongoing reimagining will establish the milestones or “hand-holds” (in the rock-climbing sense, not the crossing-the-street sense) to make that promise a reality, with enormous implications for student recruitment, retention, graduation rates, and alumni engagement.”
April 2019 Roots alumni newsletter marlboro.edu You have probably have heard about the closure of some of our peer institutions. While this is worthy of much concern for the state of higher education in the USA and we are super sorry to see these institutions go, rest assured that Marlboro is currently not on that path. Below are details on some of the exciting things happening around here that are inspiring and affirmational to our healthy community.
April 2019 Roots alumni newsletter marlboro.edu As the landscape of higher ed changes and colleges compete for fewer students as a result of shifting demographics, Marlboro College has been proactively looking for partnerships to help create efficiencies that will lead to an increasingly sustainable financial model for the college. Late last year, the Marlboro Board of Trustees created a Strategic Options Task Force, . . . charged with exploring a range of possible alliances. After a careful process, the task force engaged consultants from EY Parthenon,. . . to help us develop a vision for seeking such a partnership. The task force is committed to finding partners who will value our unique pedagogy that prioritizes student agency and strong student-faculty relationships. . . . Although this process may ultimately not yield a partner, the discussions have been important for the community to appreciate what is most valuable about a Marlboro education and focus on how we can address the challenges ahead.
April 2019 Roots alumni newsletter marlboro.edu The Root Alumni newsletter reports that the task force is moving forward to explore potential partnerships.
April 2019 20+ organizations respond. Task force researches organizations. Kevin and Board of Trustees members respond to inquiries and host prospective partners on campus. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
April 17, 2019 Liberal arts colleges across the country face ‘existential threat Fox News “With other rural Vermont colleges boarding up, like Green Mountain College a few miles away, Marlboro College’s president Kevin Quigley is working to defy the odds. ‘Underway is really an effort to kind of shift our financial model where, at a place like Marlboro, we have challenges,’ said Quigley. ‘We recognize those challenges and we’re working to address them.’ ”
May 2019 Four solid proposals received. Task force continues to explore close and go it alone options, determining that partnership is the best way to preserve the Marlboro pedagogy into the foreseeable future, prioritizing he preservation of people and place. Task Force narrows proposals to two best options. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
June 15, 2019 Two best options researched. Task force and board continue to examine two best proposals. Task force unanimously recommends the University of Bridgeport proposal to the Board of Trustees because UB’s STEM program is complementary to the Marlboro Liberal arts program, and because it is the one proposal that preserves all items on the wish list – the Marlboro pedagogy, people, and importantly, the place. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
June 22, 2019 Marlboro Board of Trustees meets in Grafton to discuss Task Force recommendations. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
June 23, 2019 Marlboro Board of Trustees meets with UB President, Provost, Board Chairman in Grafton. After meeting and hearing more about UB vision for Marlboro, Board unanimously votes to move ahead with partnership. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
June 24 – July 9, 2019 “Guiding Principals” established. Board of Trustees, Kevin Quigley, senior team, lawyers and UB reps establish “24 guiding principals” for partnership and letter of intent. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
July 10, 2019 Letter of Intent signed. With UB, including language using the term “merger.” Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
July 16, 2019 Marlboro College Designated Changemaker Campus “Marlboro is pleased to be recognized among colleges and universities as an inspirational learning community and leader in social innovation,” said Kevin Quigley, Marlboro president. “This recognition is the outcome of a rigorous selection process, and we have looked forward to participating with other institutions in this amazingly innovative network.”
July 19, 2019 Alumni Newsletter “In the summer of 2018, Marlboro College had a $35 million endowment, minimal debt, and good accreditation standing. At that time, there was no threat of “imminent” closure. However it was impossible to ignore pressing demographic changes including a declining number of high school graduates and climbing cost of education that led to closure of Green Mountain College, Southern Vermont College, St Joseph’s . . . along with hundreds of other colleges across the country in the last few years. A responsibility to serve and preserve the Marlboro College Communiy with the most optimal outcome in the current environment spurred the College Board of Trustees to proactively task teams to consider all of the possible futures of Marlboro College, while working to bolster enrollment, preserve our accreditation status, and reinforce the curriculum to continue to serve current students.”
July 25, 2019 The University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut’s most populous city, announced Thursday it is merging with Marlboro College, a small liberal arts college in rural Vermont. Leaders of both schools said they plan to join forces beginning spring of 2020, describing the move as a way to create a sustainable future for New England liberal arts colleges while expanding educational opportunities for students. Marlboro College will be called the Marlboro College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Bridgeport. The University of Bridgeport’s name will not change. Associated Press, Wire Service Content
July 25, 2019 Marlboro College community and press notified of the signed letter of intent and intent to merge Marlboro College and UB and to become the Marlboro College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Bridgeport. Source: July 2019 Alumni Roots Email Newsletter (see below)
September 9, 2019 Marlboro Ranked #12 for Social Mobility by U.S. News & World Report Marlboro College was pleased to be once again included in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Colleges rankings for 2020, released today, where it was ranked #132 among liberal arts colleges across the nation. Even more exciting, however, was Marlboro’s #12 ranking among “top performers on social mobility,” where the college got high points for successfully enrolling and graduating large proportions of Pell Grant students. “Marlboro College believes it has a responsibility to make its distinctive educational model accessible to as many students as possible,” said Marlboro President Kevin Quigley. “This is one reason the college reduced its tuition by a third this year, a bold step to address the inherent flaws associated with high tuition business models.”
September 13, 2019 Marlboro College and the University of Bridgeport end merger discussions Marlboro College and the University of Bridgeport today have suspended negotiations on a potential merger due to concerns around the sustainability of a merged institution. As the smaller institution, Marlboro College was especially determined to protect the integrity of its rigorous, self-directed academic model and self-governed community. In addition, Marlboro needed assurances on UB’s enduring commitment to the Vermont campus and guarantees that the wishes of Marlboro’s generous donors, who established the College’s current sizeable endowment, would be maintained.
October 7, 2019 Endeavor Foundation Grant Boosts Website, Admissions Materials New materials communicate Marlboro’s relevance and value to core audiences.
“Marlboro has been working hard at re-imagining the curriculum over the past year, to respond to the evolving needs of students and recent graduates, and it was important for this to be accurately projected in our communications,” said Kevin Quigley, Marlboro president. “Our dynamic new website and eye-catching admissions materials communicate the college’s relevance and value to our core audiences.”
October 28, 2019 Alumni Association Resuscitation – Join us! After a long hiatus, the Marlboro College Alumni Association is finally getting a reboot thanks to renewed passion from our alumni community and a core of committed, amazing alums who have taken on the hard work of grassroots organizing. Because there is urgent need to participate in dialogue with the college and its trustees now, we have offered to serve as an interim council and temporarily lead this organization for the coming months. We’ve already made good strides by connecting with alumni, the current Marlboro administration and community, and the trustees. We’re hard at work building bridges with everyone who is passionate about Marlboro. Daniel Doolittle ’95, Randy George ’93, Cate Marvin ’93, Jessica Taraski ’91
November 7, 2019 Marlboro to Become Part of Emerson By Scott Jaschik Inside Higher Ed Move comes after the tiny Vermont college failed to merge with University of Bridgeport.
“Emerson College announced Wednesday that Marlboro College will move its academic programs to Emerson, effective the fall of 2020. Marlboro students will be admitted to Emerson, and its tenured and tenure-track faculty members may choose to teach at Emerson. Emerson is located in Boston, while Marlboro is located in Vermont. Marlboro employees who are not tenured or tenure-track faculty will not be employed by Emerson. Marlboro will gift to Emerson its endowment, currently valued at more than $30 million, and its real estate holdings, appraised at more than $10 million. Marlboro’s gift to Emerson will endow Emerson’s liberal arts and interdisciplinary studies program, where Marlboro students will be enrolled and Marlboro faculty will teach. Marlboro will close its campus at the end of the 2019-20 academic year. Lee Pelton, the president of Emerson, has been skeptical of colleges that merge without thinking through the cultural issues. ‘The best mergers are not just financial, but cultural,’ he said. ‘Many colleges and universities believe that they are better than they are,’ Pelton said. ‘And they pursue mergers that do great harm to their faculties and students.’ He was also quick to say that this would not be a merger. After next fall, he said, ‘Marlboro will not exist.’ ”
November 18, 2019 Marlboro College Live Webinar for Alumni A recording of the webinar is available upon request from the Alumni office. Timestamp: 28:53-31:30
Viewer question: “Why were the alumni not notified of the dire circumstances of the school’s finances? The message we seemed to get over the last few years was ‘It would be great if you could send more money’ and not ‘The school is going to close if we don’t all band together.’ “
Kevin Quigley: “So Pamela, you know, I appreciate that perspective, but I have a slightly different one. I think in all of my communications, certainly over the last two, if not the last three years, I’ve been talking about the challenges in liberal arts education, particularly for small colleges. They’ve all, and those discussions were through Potash Hills, they were also in meetings on campus, that were either live-blogged or minutes posted, and those included our Town Meeting as well as Faculty Meeting. I know that this news that we were in financial circumstances shocked a lot of people, but I do think that we’ve been communicating, maybe not as well as our alumni body would prefer, but I think there were a lot of messages that we sent out saying that we’re having challenging circumstances. Certainly, if you look at our enrollment numbers, since 2005, there’s been a steady downturn in our enrollment numbers, and we had a fair amount of conversation about the impact that declining enrollment had on our budget. So I’m sorry you feel that you were surprised and that we didn’t communicate as clearly as you would have liked, and I do think that if you look at some of our communications, the fact that we were experiencing challenges was embedded in a lot of our communications. One of the dilemmas is, and this was the earlier question, that Laura asked about: were we trying to make it on our own? We can’t really say, “We’re in crisis, send us money, we’re about to close,” when you’re trying to recruit our, uh, an incoming class and retain your current students. So that moving along two tracks simultaneously, which the college really did up until last summer, I think probably made our communication more subtle than you might have preferred.”
November 19, 2019 Strategic Options Task Force Updates Marlboro plans merger with Emerson College Today we are announcing that Marlboro College has taken the first step to becoming the Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies on the Emerson College campus; President Kevin Quigley and Board of Trustees Chair Richard Saudek