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Castleton Seeks Upgrade From College To University

Castleton University plans to layoff an undisclosed number of staff later this year, as the school grapples with a budget shortfall.
Jared C. Benedict
Wikimedia Commons
Castleton College would like to become Castleton University. President David Wolk says the name change makes sense, because in many ways the school already functions like a university.

The Vermont State College system could soon include a university. State college system trustees are being asked to consider changing the name of Castleton State College to Castleton University.

Castleton President David Wolk says the name change makes sense because in many ways the school functions like a university. It offers a number master’s degrees and is planning to offer its first doctoral program.

Wolk also points to the creation of the Castleton Polling Institute and an expansion of programs and off-campus sites run by the college.

“When you combine all of these activities, on and off campus, with our future growth, it makes sense for us to become a university. That’s who we are,” says Wolk.

While changing demographics have led to declining enrollment in the Vermont State College system, Castleton has fared better than most. Enrollment increased significantly for 15 years, until it flattened out two years ago.

Wolk expects it will begin increasing again, partly because the school is seeing more international students. The name change could help the college recruit more foreign students.

“Many international students equate college with what is considered to be a high school, whereas university is more closely equated to higher education,” he says.

"When you combine all of these activities, on and off campus, with our future growth, it makes sense for us to become a university. That's who we are." - David Wolk, Castleton president

Wolk says Castleton currently has about 25 international students and hopes to double that number this fall. Castleton has agreements in place with colleges in China and India that make it easier for students to transfer credits.

Vermont State Colleges Chancellor Jeb Spaulding says the decision to change the name is up to the VSC Board of Trustees. 

Spaulding says each of the five colleges in the system is different in terms of its character and the programs it offers. He says with its variety of academic, sports and arts programs and activities, Castleton has the feel of a larger institution.

Spaulding doesn’t think elevating Castleton to the status of university would diminish the others. In fact, he says, the addition of a small public university would improve the whole system.

“It’s a question that has been asked by some of the trustees,” says Spaulding. “What will be the impact if Castleton becomes a university on the other college in the system? My belief is, if the board were to go along with the suggestion, it would strengthen the other colleges.”

Wolk believes there are both real and psychological advantages to changing the college to a university.

‘The name change reflects a transformation at Castleton. Certainty the name change will facilitate better grant writing and fund raising. It’s aspirational as well as inspirational,” he says.

A committee of the board of trustees is scheduled to take up the name change at a meeting this week.

It’s not clear when the board will reach a decision

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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