University of Vermont

Board of Trustees

Board of Trustees, Chair's Report

David A. Daigle
UVM Board of Trustees Chair’s Report
February 3, 2017

Good morning everyone, and welcome to our February board meeting.  We are on a tight schedule today, and I ask in advance for your patience and understanding if we need to move along in our agenda.

“Account for the Value Proposition”.  These were recent words of advice provided to a group of high school students and their parents by a college admissions director at my daughter’s high school.

This notion of value proposition will become more important with time.  The real (inflation-adjusted) cost of tuition and fees at public universities has increased at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 4% over the past three decades.  UVM has done better, but the real cost of attendance continues to rise even at UVM.  Within a few years, families will be asked by UVM to pay a quarter of a million dollars for a bachelor’s degree; they will account for the value proposition.

In my October remarks, I commented on UVM’s strategic imperative to improve its academic profile and, in turn, selectivity.  Selectivity is not a synonym for elitism, but rather an indirect measure of the perception of value.  UVM has strategic assets that enhance its value proposition:  a rich historical legacy, an impressive array of academic and athletic programs, meaningful research activity that elevates faculty and student learning, a fabulous campus location, and many more.  

Still, it is clear that we can, and must, continue to improve our value proposition.  The dynamics of higher education funding will continue to evolve in ways that introduce considerable risks to the status quo.  Virtually everyone in this room is in some way a leader of this institution – faculty members, student leaders, administrative leaders, and trustees.  Through our collective efforts, we need to ensure the future viability and success of UVM, even as historical models of higher education may be disrupted.  On behalf of our board, I want to thank each of you for your many contributions to this cause.

One of the enduring core values of The University of Vermont is to provide an excellent value proposition for Vermont students.  In fact, after considering the benefit of our annual state appropriation, 43% of Vermont students enrolled at UVM attend tuition-free.  The most recent manifestation of this core value is the new Catamount Commitment, which further removes financial barriers for one quarter of our Vermont undergraduate students.

Vermont has a strong record in graduation rates for high school students, measured against regional and national benchmarks.  The unfortunate corollary is that, both regionally and nationally, Vermont ranks poorly in terms of college enrollment of those successful high school graduates.  This is particularly true with Vermont males, who enroll in postsecondary education at a much lower rate than females.  We need to find ways to more effectively promote UVM’s outstanding value proposition to these students.

The Federal Reserve conducted research that concluded that the primary factor behind differences in per capita state income levels was the “knowledge stock”, which was defined to include high school and college attainment rates as well as the number of patents.  Their conclusion is entirely consistent with economic theory, which tells us that income is a function of productivity, and productivity is a function of knowledge.  Quoting from a VSAC report that referenced the study:

“Simply put, higher state per capita income is a product of its efforts to increase education attainment.  Conversely, low per capita income is a product of state disinvestment in postsecondary education attainment.”

If Vermont is seeking to improve its “knowledge stock”, there is no better conduit than the University of Vermont.

Yet we appreciate that the State of Vermont is limited in its capacity to contribute to the advancement of UVM.  Consequently, it is imperative that we consider the value proposition we present to out of state families.  The University of Vermont is, quite uniquely, a public institution funded largely privately.  Private resources, including net tuition and philanthropic contributions, support the vast majority, and an increasing proportion, of our budget.  While we seek to maintain the excellent value proposition we offer to Vermont students, we must increasingly acknowledge that our financial foundation rests on offering a compelling value proposition to out of state students and donors.

As the administration seeks to improve the value proposition, by restraining tuition increases, by controlling costs, by advancing its commitment to improve the quality of our academic programs, by seeking to improve the health and wellness of our students, it has this board’s unwavering support.  We are making progress in all of these areas, and yet the need to do more is very clear.

Finally, I have the honor of introducing our newest board member, Caitlin McHugh, a first-year UVM student.  It is not unprecedented, but it is rare, to have a first-year student succeed in the nomination process.  Welcome, Caitlin; we look forward to working with you over the next two years.

This concludes my chair’s report.


Last modified February 07 2017 09:32 AM