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President E. Thomas Sullivan meets with the press on Monday in Burlington. The new president of the University of Vermont says his top priority will be to ensure that no qualified student is denied a higher education because of the cost. Sullivan made the comment during a brief meeting with reporters on his first day leading UVM.

New UVM president says affordability is key

BURLINGTON — The top priority of E. Thomas Sullivan, the new president of the University of Vermont, will be to ensure that no qualified Vermont student is denied a higher education because of the cost, he said Monday, his first day leading the state’s largest university.

To do that and help maintain UVM’s reputation for academic excellence, Sullivan said he would look at the tuition and fees charged by the university, promote state support and seek private donations to help fund scholarships and financial aid packages.

“We do not want to shut the door for any eligible Vermont student,” Sullivan said. “It’s our goal to make sure that that student will not have a financial-access barrier coming to this institution. That will be my top priority at this university.”

And the campus building boom that marked the tenure of Sullivan’s predecessor, Dan Fogel, is over, at least for now.

“My emphasis initially will not be on new buildings, but rather on renewal of present structure and making sure we have terrific facilities and infrastructure to support the learning environment for our students and the teaching and research environment for our faculty,” Sullivan said.

He said some research laboratories and classrooms on the Burlington campus are in need of a significant amount of work.

Sullivan’s move to UVM comes at a time when public colleges and universities throughout the country are struggling with the competing demands of providing a quality education with dwindling resources.

He was chosen last winter by the UVM Board of Trustees. Sullivan came to Burlington from the University of Minnesota, where he had served as a senior vice president and provost. He is an attorney who is a recognized authority on antitrust law.

Fogel left the presidency last summer. In the interim, UVM was led by former Provost and Vice President John Bramley.

Sullivan said his overriding job would be to promote the quality, value and reputation of UVM, and that goal would be a part of every decision made by university officials. “Is this going to enhance the quality and the value of this university?” he said.

The next will be to ensure the university remains affordable and that would-be students aren’t kept from an education by financial barriers that cause young adults severe anxiety or make them take on unreasonable amounts of debt to get a college education.

After he gets settled in, Sullivan said he plans to spend a lot of time on the road raising the private funds to help support the university, as well as working with the governor and the Legislature to seek public support.

“You’re going to see a president who is very much involved in strategic planning, alignment of priorities in the budget and encouraging the constituents of this great university, be they the taxpayer, be they alumni, be they donors, be they corporate business entities, why it’s important to financially support the University of Vermont,” he said.

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