SOUTHERN VERMONT COLLEGE (visited 4/17/14)
SVC sits on a sprawling, open 370-acre campus surrounded by mountains. Bennington, a small city of about 20,000 people, is about a mile down the hill from campus. The campus is divided into two sections: a modern residential section at the bottom of the hill, and a large stone mansion at the top of the hill which houses academics. The college was founded in 1926 as St. Joseph College but became independent when it was turned over to an independent board. Although it is a private institution, the tuition usually is about on-par with in-state tuition after aid is granted. About 90% of students receive Financial Aid; 35% are Pell eligible. The school only enrolls about 500 students, almost 2/3 of whom are first-gen students. They offer excellent student support on campus including LD support, tutoring, and career services.
Admitted students average about a 2.8 GPA and 940 SAT. Admission is rolling, and the do a holistic, portfolio approach to making decisions. On-campus housing is guaranteed for first-year students. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can have cars on campus for free because many of them commute, and so many of them have internships in town. However, even for students without cars, getting around isn’t an issue. They can walk into town, and there’s a lot going on on campus. The Activities Board plans lots of things on the weekend, including trips off campus to NYC, Boston, and Northampton.
Before the tour, I spoke with two of the tour guides: Stephanie, a senior from Massachusetts who is majoring in Health Care Management, and Bridget, a sophomore Nursing major from Connecticut. Stephanie was one of the few guides I’ve met who shook hands – initiated! “We came because it’s small. Instead of being another face in the crowd you can be your own person here.” Bridget said, “I can know everyone if I want to. We’re on first name basis with professors and they give us their cell numbers. They’re here to support us. If I miss class, the professor will call me out on it later!”
Because of their limited enrollment, they only offer 16 majors, but they do them all well. Nursing is Direct-Entry (min 2.8 GPA, 500 per section on the SAT, and a C+ or better in Bio and Chem). The Healthcare Education Center is located 1.5 miles away. Clinicals can be done at the VA hospital, the hospital in town, at Pittfield, Mass., the SW Regional Cancer Center, and more. Our tour guide (in Health Care Management) did a 130 hour practicum with a Women’s Advocacy Center.
The Radiological Sciences, creative writing, criminal justice, healthcare management and advocacy, and business (with concentrations in management, sports management, and entrepreneurship) are also worth noting. “Business is strong because of our ability to integrate with the community. Bennington is a wonderful town. My classes always have a community component.” The bank in town provides $5000 for philanthropic funds. They do needs-assessment, write requests for proposals, solicit applications, create scoring rubrics, and do site visit checklists. Basically they go through the entire grant process.
Five things are happening this year that they wanted to highlight:
1) They’re launching a new Women’s Lacrosse team (which will be the 11th varsity team on campus)
2) They’re starting a new BSN program
3) A Vet Scholars program is being initiated
4) They’re opening a new admissions/welcome center
5) The Everett Mansion turns 100
The President was very proud of their “Book Ends of Your Education” program. Students get a book (signed by the faculty) when they enter the community and another when they leave. It seems like a wonderful idea – but I found it interesting that our tour guide, a junior, couldn’t remember what her freshman book was.
This is an excellent college choice for students who might need a little bit of academic or social support as they transition into college. It’s a small, supportive community in a beautiful location with excellent hands-on educational opportunities.