Timothy J. Donovan, chancellor of the Vermont State Colleges system since 2009, will retire at the end of this year. The VSC board, at its meeting May 22 approved his request to leave six months before his current contract would have expired.

Donovan said he was retiring for personal reasons that he did not wish to discuss. He has steered the state colleges through turbulent times during his tenure. Among them: the Great Recession that has made it more difficult for more Vermonters to afford a higher education, and a worrisome decline in the number of Vermont high-school graduates that shows no signs of abating. More than 80 per cent of state-college students are from Vermont.

"These are very good colleges," Donovan said, "better than Vermont should expect given its meager investment." He regularly points out that in 1980, the state provided half the cost of running the colleges, and student tuition only the remaining half. Today, the state pays for less than 20 percent of the cost, leaving the colleges to try to juggle increases in student fees with their avowed aim of providing an affordable education.

Donovan has spent 38 years in the Vermont state-college system. Before his five years as chancellor, he was president of the Community College of Vermont for eight years.

Said board vice chair Tim Jerman: "There is now a generation of Vermonters who have benefited from Tim's leadership This is a sad announcement."