“I think this is the future of higher education,” said Ellen McCulloch-Lovell, Marlboro president, in a recent interview on WCAX news. “You’re going to see a lot more of us sharing resources, sharing courses, trying to save money and control costs so more people can get a college education.” Ellen was referring to a recent agreement between six local colleges known as the Windham Higher Education Cooperative, which was launched on February 3 at the Marlboro College Graduate Center.
Representatives from Marlboro College, Landmark College, Vermont Technical College, Union Institute, School for International Training, and the Community College of Vermont gathered at the graduate center to sign a memorandum of understanding. The MOU, the first of its kind in Vermont, establishes a cross registration agreement that allows students to take courses at other institutions.
“I think it will have a tremendous impact,” said Peter Eden, president of Landmark College. “We refer to it as a ‘communiveristy.’ Open curriculum is not standard but it’s becoming expected for today’s college student. Every college has its strengths, in terms of curriculum.”
The agreement also includes a shared internship program, in partnership with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, linking students with local businesses and thereby benefitting economic development in the region. Thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Labor, students at each of the institutions can expect to see an increase in paid internship opportunities.
Two members of the cooperative, CCV and VTC, have also been instrumental in the redevelopment of the Brooks House, a historic, five-story building in downtown Brattleboro that was gutted buy fire in 2011.
“The WHEC is something that emerged from the idea of having CCV and VTC downtown, and just up the street from us,” said Sean Conley, associate dean of graduate and professional studies at Marlboro.
“The WHEC will keep graduates from our institutions in the region, where they can get jobs and, more importantly, create jobs,” said Ellen. “Because they have more choices, they can design and expand their own curriculum. And they’ll get to know Windham County through their experiences with business and nonprofit employers.