Photo: Norwich 50 Legacy March. Courtesy photo.
by Bruce Edwards Vermont Business Magazine When the talk turns to economic development, industrial and commercial development top the list. But higher education is a significant economic driver in its own right.
Just ask Richard Schneider, president of Norwich University.
Photo: Norwich President Schneider. VBM photo.
Norwich is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, culminating with the largest homecoming in its history.
“There were over 6,000 people here and that is a huge economic engine of course as you can imagine,” Schneider said. “They were staying as far north as Burlington and well below White River Junction and everything in between.”
The 200th anniversary was marked by the dedication of Bicentennial Stairs. The names of 78 individuals who made a significant contribution to the school during its second hundred years had their names engraved on the granite steps.
The Centennial Stairs were dedicated in 1919 with the names of 48 individuals engraved in Barre granite.
Photo: The college is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Courtesy photo.
Associated with the 200th anniversary was the school’s Forging the Future capital campaign which raised $118 million, far exceeding the goal of $100 million.
“Within that $118 million … is well over $60 million worth of construction all done by Vermont contractors, I might add,” Schneider said.
Schneider said the school has constructed or renovated every building on campus that a student learns in, studies in, plays in, or sleeps in.
The capital campaign also earmarked monies for the school’s $220 million endowment and for academic improvements, community service outreach, and technology upgrades.
Of the new construction, there is a $25 million cyber warfare building, Mack Hall.
Photo: Norwich University President Richard Schneider stands on the Bicentennial Steps honoring individuals who made a significant contribution to the school’s second 100 years from 1919 to 2019. The college is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year. Courtesy photo.
Schneider said not only does Norwich prepare military leaders but also prepares graduates for the private and public sectors to “deal with cyber threats.”
With declining enrollments, several Vermont colleges have closed their doors this year. In the past, Norwich has weathered some financial storms of its own, said Schneider who will step down next year as president after 28 years.
“I think if you stick to your mission and your academic programs are relevant people will buy them,” he said. “If your academic programs aren’t relevant, people aren’t going to come.”
When they receive their degrees, Norwich graduates are well prepared “to solve real world problem,” he said.
In addition to relevance, Schneider said affordability and flexibility are also part of Norwich’s successful business model.
The school’s endowment plays a large part in keeping tuition affordable which helps attract the best students, he said. “If I can compete and I can now on price with any state college anywhere because of the strength of my endowment, I am absolutely packed,” he said. “I can’t take one more kid.”
Because the school was able to send more students to study abroad for the fall semester, Schneider said it freed up more beds on campus.
Norwich has an enrollment of 2,400 undergraduate students with 1,600 making up the corps of cadets along with 800 civilian students.
In addition, there are 1,500 online graduate students.
Norwich employs 650 faculty and staff and has an annual budget of $120 million with $55 million of that salaries and benefits.
Schneider said higher education spending is a significant contributor to the state’s economy.
According to the Association of Vermont Independent Colleges, the economic impact of the state’s 18 private colleges is $2.1 billion. Total enrollment is 19,450.
Looking ahead, Schneider said the school has formulated a plan called Future 2035 to take the college forward.
He said one goal is to increase enrollment by 400 to 600 students “but not add one bed in Northfield.”
He said the plan is to partner with other schools and have students study at schools “all over the world and we are hellbent on that path right now.”
Bruce Edwards is a freelance writer from Southern Vermont.