Burlington College officials announced to students, faculty, and staff on Monday that the college will shutter its doors in two weeks, the Burlington Free Press reported.
The school will officially close on May 27.
Burlington has long faced financial difficulties stemming from a 2010 purchase of 32 acres of land. Notably, Jane Sanders, wife of Vermont Sen. and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, oversaw the deal during her time as president of the 250-student college.
Below is a timeline of events that impacted the decision to close Burlington College.
- 2004 – 2010: Jane Sanders serves as president of Burlington College and aims to increase enrollment and renovate the school’s campus.
- End of 2010: Sanders brokers a deal to purchase 32 acres of land from the Roman Catholic Diocese. The diocese had been eager to sell the land as it was “saddled with costs from priest-abuse litigation,” according to the Free Press.
- September 2011: Jane Sanders resigns as president. Neither Sanders, nor the board of trustees, offer a reason for her departure. Sanders’ effort to increase enrollment and bring in more cash for the college do not prove fruitful, and the college’s woes continue.
- June 2012: Christine Plunkett takes over as president. She aims to bring financial stability to the college and increase enrollment by setting a target of growing Burlington’s enrollment to as large as 750 students, according to the Free Press. She also creates a housing development plan that intends to help pay off some of the college’s debts.
- July 2014: Plunkett’s efforts, however, were ultimately unsuccessful. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), Burlington’s accrediting agency, places the school on probation for financial reasons.
- August 2014: The Burlington student union and faculty and staff council issue a statement of no-confidence in Plunkett’s leadership.
- August 2014: Plunkett resigns suddenly amid a tense altercation with students, who confronted her about the housing development plan after a board meeting. She snaps, saying, “OK, I resign. Happy?” according to the Free Press. One board member called the negative press surrounding the incident the “nail in the coffin” for Burlington.
- February 2015: Burlington sells most of the property purchased under Sanders but holds on to six of the 32 acres. The college was $11.4 million in debt, and its interm president told an independent newspaper that the college $300,000 in unpaid bills, according to Politico.
- April 2016: People’s United Bank pulls Burlington’s line of credit. Yves Bradley, chair of the college’s board of trustees, told The Chronicle of Higher Education he believes the bank lost faith in the college.
- Wednesday, May 10, 2016: The board of trustees learn that an institution working to create a merger with the college decided not to proceed. The board wouldn’t identify the institution, but reporters ask later in a press conference if it was Green Mountain College, located in Poultney, Vermont, according to The Chronicle.
- Friday, May 12: The board of trustees votes unanimously to close the school.
- Saturday, May 14: Burlington’s graduation ceremony takes place. No one, not even the keynote speaker, the school’s founder, mentions the closure.
- Monday, May 16: School officials announce that Burlington College will close for good on May 27. The school’s reason for closure is the “crushing weight of the debt” it incurred as a result of the 32 acre land purchase in 2010.
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