© 2024 Connecticut Public

FCC Public Inspection Files:
WPKT · WRLI-FM · WEDW-FM · Public Files Contact
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Marlboro College, University Of Bridgeport Call Off Merger Talks

Marlboro College, in Vermont, and the University of Bridgeport - based in Connecticut, and whose campus is pictured here in July 2015 - announced Thursday that they plan to merge the institutions.
Marlboro College, in Vermont, and the University of Bridgeport - based in Connecticut, and whose campus is pictured here in July 2015 - announced Thursday that they plan to merge the institutions.

VPR's Henry Epp spoke to Marlboro College President Kevin Quigley on Monday.

A merger plan between Vermont's Marlboro College and University of Bridgeport, in Connecticut, was put on ice Friday. Marlboro College announced on its websitethat the institutions suspended those negotiations "due to concerns around the sustainability of a merged institution."

The announcement from Marlboro College stated:

"Both institutions worked diligently on a deal that would have seen Marlboro continue to provide its distinctive teaching tradition on its Vermont campus as the Marlboro College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Bridgeport, providing new geographic and programmatic options available to students on both campuses. The two schools suspended negotiations, citing insurmountable barriers to developing a compelling financial and academic model that supported both institutional missions."

The merger plans had been announced back in July. At that time, Marlboro College President Kevin Quigley told VPR that the two schools were looking to finalize a plan by the end of this year and implement it by July 2020.

"I think this news is disappointing and unsettling for all of us," Quigley told VPR on Monday. "But our students have been really remarkable in seeing that this partnership exploration could potentially expand in really important ways, educational opportunity, for them." 

Marlboro's written announcement Friday about the halted talks noted some factors that had been weighed during the merger discussion process:

"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."

Marlboro College expressed appreciation Friday toward University of Bridgeport for its willingness to engage in merger talks. The college also announced its board of trustees will "pursue other options and continue to act in the best interest of students, faculty, and staff to seek a partnership that will preserve the College’s pedagogy and community while adhering to the College’s mission."

In Monday's interview with VPR, Quigley said Marlboro could stay open without a partnership in place.

"We're very fortunate because, relatively speaking, the college has a large endowment and almost no debt," Quigley said. "And so we have the opportunity to be strategic, to be deliberative, to be quite transparent and participatory about the process."

Quigley reiterated that the college has been forthcoming with various stakeholders about issues it has faced, including enrollment numbers and finances.

"We've laid it out — our strategy of trying to do the best we can to make it on our own, to explore partnerships," he said. "And if that doesn't work out, and this is our far least preferred option, is to close but to do it in [an] ethical fashion as humanly possible."

Quigley told VPR that revisiting some of those other proposals received during the initial solicitation of potential partners could be an option, but said he could not comment on who some of those possible partners might be.

The news from Marlboro College comes at a time when many small colleges in New England are struggling financially and competing for a shrinking pool of students. Three Vermont colleges have closed thus far in 2019: College of St. Joseph, Green Mountain College and Southern Vermont College.

Update 4:05 p.m. This post was updated with comment from Quigley.

Copyright 2019 Vermont Public Radio

Amy is an award winning journalist who has worked in print and radio in Vermont since 1991. Her first job in professional radio was at WVMX in Stowe, where she worked as News Director and co-host of The Morning Show. She was a VPR contributor from 2006 to 2020.
Henry is a reporter and host of All Things Considered on VPR.

Stand up for civility

This news story is funded in large part by Connecticut Public’s Members — listeners, viewers, and readers like you who value fact-based journalism and trustworthy information.

We hope their support inspires you to donate so that we can continue telling stories that inform, educate, and inspire you and your neighbors. As a community-supported public media service, Connecticut Public has relied on donor support for more than 50 years.

Your donation today will allow us to continue this work on your behalf. Give today at any amount and join the 50,000 members who are building a better—and more civil—Connecticut to live, work, and play.