Half A Billion Dollars To 'Move Mountains:' UVM Launches Largest Ever Capital Campaign

Oct 2, 2015

On Friday afternoon the University of Vermont announced the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its 224-year history.  Over the next four years it hopes to raise $500 million. Private donations have already brought it halfway to that goal.

Like many public research universities, UVM has seen state support flatten over the past decade.  A recent report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences places Vermont fifth from the bottom in state spending for higher education.

President Tom Sullivan is now looking to the private sector to support new initiatives.  The capital campaign goal is even larger than UVM's current $400 million endowment and it's focusing on recruiting talented students and faculty. 

"We want to make sure that they have the best success here at the University of Vermont,” Sullivan said.

That means, he says, updating and creating learning and living space. The new capital campaign will spawn construction: a complex of laboratories, classrooms and research facilities, a new first-year residence hall, and a new patient care facility at UVM Medical Center. But Sullivan says the major focus of the new capital campaign, called “Moving Mountains”, is on human capital — students, faculty, and academic programs.

“60 percent of the targeted goal for the comprehensive campaign is for scholarships to support students while they are here, and that’s particularly true for Vermont students,” he said.

UVM broke ground on a new $104 million STEM facility in May, part of an initiative to increase the number of STEM graduates by 50 percent over five years.
Credit Taylor Dobbs / VPR

  Donations will also endow professorships and support new academic programs and facilities. UVM has one of the lowest percentages of in-state students among public universities nationwide. Sullivan says that’s because of Vermont’s declining pool of college-age residents, and too few aspire to higher education. He hopes the new scholarships will bring more Vermonters to campus. But even if UVM continues to attract a lot of out-of state students, he hopes they will come to feel at home here.

“Hopefully they will enter into our workforce as talented and contributing citizens in Vermont. That’s our goal and the scholarship priority here and the financial support we hope will keep those students here in Vermont," Sullivan said.

With more investment in science, environmental and health education, as well as humanities, UVM hopes to compete for students and faculty with many larger universities, while remaining small enough to offer personal attention.

There are about 10,000 undergraduates enrolled this year from 48 states.  Tuition, fees, room and board add up to about $31,000 a year. Last year, financial aid allowed 46 percent of Vermont undergrads to attend tuition-free.