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Molnar: When A College Closes

The graceful campus reflects its roots in 1836, and today the school has earned high marks for environmental education.

Rumors had been flying for months, but now it’s official. Green Mountain College is closing its doors at the end of this semester. The school traces its roots to 1836, and during its nearly two centuries it underwent several iterations. Today it’s highly ranked for its environmental education with roughly four hundred students, a declining enrollment and the steadily rising costs that forced its closing.

Other small schools, like Castleton University, Sterling College and Paul Smith College have offered to help the students complete their degrees. And that’s a comfort. But if there’s a real upside to the loss of Green Mountain College, I can’t see it.

I’ll miss the students, who grow the vegetables, raise the chickens and collect the eggs I buy, and who served an annual free harvest dinner for anyone and everyone. I’ll miss the lovely old campus because when it’s silent and empty I’ll no longer have a reason to go there. I won’t drop by the busy kitchen for fresh fish left by a local farmer who picks it up it each week from Boston Harbor - not directly a college effort but still ...

I’ll miss the fermentation festival where I learned to make kombucha and sauerkraut; I’ll miss lectures, concerts, and Farm to Ballet performances on the lawn.

But the losses go well beyond that.

Like any college town, Poultney is a lively little place with small shops, a quirky independent bookstore, and several restaurants, my favorite being a tavern with live music. Turnover is frequent, because maintaining a retail business in a small Vermont town is tough – and now it’s going to get tougher. Because some of these businesses were started by Green Mountain College alumni, as were a good number of nearby farms. Now there will be no more alumni to fall in love with the area, put down roots, raise families and build community.

Everything from the local farm-to-table movement to Main Street will be affected - including the arts. Local music, poetry, dance, yoga and more, have long been reinforced by Green Mountain’s talent and energy. Without the college, this small community will find it difficult indeed to keep its economy going – creative and otherwise.

Martha L. Molnar is a public relations and freelance writer who moved to Vermont in 2008. She was formerly a New York Times reporter.
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