MONTPELIER — The University of Vermont is seeking more than $44 million in state funding for fiscal year 2017, with the president telling legislative committees that the school is at a competitive disadvantage in attracting the best students and faculty compared to peer institutions that have received state funding increases.
The governor's budget unveiled last week provided no increase in funds for UVM and the Vermont State Colleges system.
UVM president Tom Sullivan told the House Education Committee that the school is following the recommendation of a state higher education funding study committee report in seeking the $44.7 million state appropriation — an increase of 5.2 percent. The total budget for UVM's current fiscal year is $635 million.
Half of UVM's state appropriation goes to scholarships and financial aid support for Vermonters, and last year 43 percent of Vermont students attended the school tuition-free, Sullivan said. But Vermont ranks 49th in state support of higher education and UVM's state appropriation has not kept pace with the school's growth, he said.
"We're falling behind. We're falling behind on that competitive attracting and retaining the very best students, the most important thing attracting, rewarding and retaining great faculty that produce all of these results. We simply have a harder time competing when we look at that competitive disadvantage or the competitive advantage of our peer institutions," he said.
UVM has made cuts to staff or executive office staff and made investments in faculty, he said.
"We are lean. We're going to continue to look to see where there are cost efficiencies so that we can put more money into student scholarships, so that we can put more money into faculty salaries and benefits and make sure that we have the best in that intellectual capital of the university, which are our faculty and our students," he said.
Sullivan shared some of UVM's highlights, including a new science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, facility made up of laboratories and classrooms being built that he believes "will be Vermont's number one economic driver" through jobs and applied research. The first building is expected to be complete in 2017.