University of Vermont

The 26th President of the University of Vermont

Presidents Remarks to Board May 2004

President's Remarks to Board of Trustees
May 21, 2004

Good morning. I want to echo the Chairman’s appreciation to Dean Maglaris for his service as chair. And I want to thank all of you for your service on the Board of Trustees. It seems to me that one’s first year on a job is a little like driving to a place you’ve never been before on back roads in uncertain light. There’s a degree of anxiety about whether you will make the right turns, and the journey seems much longer than the next time you drive it. Now, well into the second year of my work here at the University of Vermont, I look to this Board as my principal guides and companions on a journey that continually deepens my appreciation of the Board and of every one of its members.

It’s a joy to welcome everyone to this critical meeting of the Board of Trustees of the University of Vermont, here on the eve of our Bicentennial Commencement on our beautiful, historic College Green.

There is much good news to report, but I’m going to pass over almost all of the eligible items to comment on just three for reasons that will be obvious in the context of our discussion this morning of the Strategic Financial Plan. First, I want to report on the outcome of the Legislative Session, which closed last night with much good news for Vermont, including good news for the University.. We ended up with a 2.75% increase to recurring base budget (three-quarters of a point above the 2% modeled in the Strategic Financial Plan), and we ended up with $2.6M for capital budgets, a favorable outcome in view of the State Department of Buildings and General Services having been able to recommend only $2.1M. We also saw reforms on permitting and stormwater that can greatly facilitate our long-term agendas. In addition, funds have come through for the operating budget of the Vermont Center for Emerging Technologies, for which we are extremely grateful to the administration. Above all, our gratitude goes to all of our Legislative Trustees. Their efforts were magnificent. Margaret Hummel was a heroine in the resolution of the knotty stormwater issue, and Martha Heath played a key leadership role as vice chair of house appropriations and as one of the three house representatives on the conference committee; I could say much more about each of our legislative trustees, but let me just observe for now that all of them compounded their service to the State and their constituents by steady and astute attention to the interests of higher education in Vermont. Many thanks on behalf of the University to all of you for your unwavering support.

Second, let me just foreshadow what Academic and Student Programs will hear on our applications for next year. As you know, our applicant pool was the second largest in UVM’s history, surpassing the number of applications in 1988 and second only by a few hundred applications to the 1987 peak. Now all of the enrollment deposits are in, and we have over 2120, twenty or so under our target, but since the calculation of summer melt is more art than science and since our enrollment deposit is non-refundable this year for the first time, very comfortably in the zone for enrolling our target of 2020 members of the class of 2008. More importantly, especially in the light of the challenges of our ambitious enrollment plans, quality and diversity have gone up with the numbers. The percentage of students of color in the enrollment deposit cohort is 7.9%, up from 7.1% last fall. Just as importantly, the quality indicators of the entering class have improved, notably in the distribution of students by their admissions rating. On our ACE scale of 1 low and 9 high, we’ve seen a very significant push upward since the fall of 2000, with the number of students in the lowest bracket, ACE 1 to 3, down 23.8%, while the number in the middle bracket, ACE 4-6, is up 9.6%, and, most happily, with the largest increase by far in students in the top bracket, ACE 7- 9. That group is up 28.3%, or 210 more students than in 2000 in this top bracket, representing 86% of the total increase in the size of the entering class. Now there’s growth precisely in the quality zone where we really want to see it.

Finally, our Capital Campaign is moving forward very successfully. At the end of April, we had recorded some $55 million in new Campaign commitments for this still incomplete fiscal year, bringing the Campaign total to nearly $154 million, or 61% of our goal. We have met virtually 100% of the goal for one of our top two Campaign priorities, faculty support, but we are a shade under 50% of the goal for our top priority, the scholarship funds to help us sustain the high-quality undergraduate enrollment growth so clearly under way. In light of these results to date, we are intensifying our efforts in pursuit of both endowment and current operating gifts for financial aid. The Strategic Financial Plan, along with the PricewaterhouseCooper’s analysis, makes clear why it is imperative that we do so.

In a few minutes you will hear from Mike McGuire of PwC on the firm’s assessment of the Strategic Financial Plan we have been hard at work on for the last year at the request of the Board. Having been immersed in this work—and with great intensity throughout the weeks running up to this morning’s meeting—I want first of all to thank the talented and incredibly hard-working team that has put this together for us: it represents yeoman work by John Bramley, Mike Gower, Ted Winfield and his team in Finance and Budget, Tom Gustafson, Fred Curran, and many others. They have produced, in consultation with the PwC higher education practice, a model of extraordinary sophistication and power for charting our future course toward the goal we all share of building a nationally competitive university—the nation’s premier small public research university, in the words of the Vision Statement in the University Strategic Plan. In the world of public higher education, I have never seen a modeling tool with the depth, range, complexity, sophistication, power, and adaptability of this one, and I can only believe that it is at best very rare among private universities.

In the last few weeks of deep immersion in this work, it’s become clearer to me than ever that UVM is positioned to achieve the powerful, competitive position it deserves in the landscape of higher education. To do so, the University of Vermont needs to invest in student life, seek diversity, optimize enrollment and revenue, [and successfully prosecute our] ambitious capital campaign. Enrollment management must figure prominently in the University’s future . . . . The University needs to take full and firm charge of the size and quality of both graduate and undergraduate classes.

That’s what the Strategic Financial Plan tells us—but the language you just heard, word for word, is from the Case Statement for the President of the University of Vermont that the Board of Trustees developed in 2001 as it prepared to launch the search that brought me to UVM as your 25 th president. My point is simple but important. The Strategic Financial Plan is tightly congruent with UVM’s Strategic Plan, which the Board applauded by formal resolution a year ago, in May 2003. The Strategic Financial Plan represents a richly detailed roadmap to guide our journey toward attainment of the goals in the Strategic Plan, which itself is closely tied to the Strategic Action Plan approved by the Board in 1999 and also to the goals the Board set for me as soon as I took office in 2002. The Strategic Financial Plan is in many respects about way finding, and about ways and means, the means to an overriding end, which is building Vermont’s University into a nationally competitive institution focused on the delivery of outstanding undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, on world-class research, scholarship, and creative activity, and on service and outreach that really make a difference in the world. Mr. chairman, members of the Board, I submit that that is not Dan Fogel’s vision—that is YOUR vision, our vision, embedding in the Strategic Financial Plan we are looking at today the very same values, goals, and strategic and tactical imperatives inscribed in the case statement detailing what you wanted the next president to do long before you knew who he or she would be.

We are doing, I’m convinced, just what you set out to do, but with a degree of detail, clarity, mastery of complexity, and confidence that up until now has not been available to us. The journey we will undertake together if we make intelligent use of the roadmap constituted by the Strategic Plan and the Strategic Financial Plan can carry us to our overriding goals of providing Vermont and Vermonters with a competitive national university that ranks with the best and of building financial strength as the foundation for academic excellence.

The study of course makes clear that the engine to build that strength over the next ten years is high-quality undergraduate enrollment growth. Grant a few simple propositions—of which the first is that revenue sources other than enrollment growth will not be there for us in the next decade with the cash flows required to sustain and build:

  • high-quality undergraduate and graduate programs

  • an outstanding student experience

  • competitive research and development that will advance knowledge, bring great benefits to our regional economy, build institutional prestige and visibility, and help us to attract excellent students and faculty

  • a campus that is as well maintained and as competitive in the quality of its physical plant as we would like it to be with respect to our fiduciary responsibilities as stewards of the campus and also with respect to the investments peer institutions are making in their classrooms, laboratories, residence halls, and student life facilities

  • and compensation programs that will let us retain and attract the talented, dedicated, creative, enthusiastic faculty and staff we must have to attain the curricular quality, research capabilities, and quality of student experience essential to our success

And grant another simple proposition—that to pursue this indispensable enrollment growth in the context of the declining demographic in New England and the Middle Atlantic States, we can no longer be primarily a regional University, that we can only serve Vermont well, and can only achieve our vision and mission, by building quality to levels that will position us as a truly national University, drawing students as capable, as talented, as eager to learn and grow, as endearingly without pretense as our current students in larger numbers than ever before from the centers of population growth in the South, the Southwest, and the West. Quite simply, we must become, in our quality and appeal, a school of choice for students in Florida and Texas, in Arizona and Nevada, in New Mexico and California.

And grant one more—that we cannot be complacent about our current successes. We cannot be content with the status quo. The baseline scenario tells us that. And our PwC consultants say in their own way what I said to you in the cover letter to the feasibility study, that the baseline is really far worse than it looks.

The broad way forward is clear, and the roadmap toward our goals of quality and service to Vermont and the world at large is very clear in the Strategic Financial Plan. It is a map replete with alternate routes and lay bys so that we can adapt to contingencies and changing circumstances with course adjustments that will still carry us forward toward our destination and with changes in speed as required. The PwC assessment confirms, I think, everything I’ve said to you this morning, including the need for us to be able to adapt, to monitor our progress carefully, and to retain our options for phasing as the plan unfolds. But to lay all of that out, I need to let Mike McGuire and his colleagues speak for themselves. Mike. . .
(for the executive summary and conclusion of the PwC report, click on the following link - PwC Presentation, May 20, 2004).

Last modified June 03 2004 08:11 PM

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