FORT KENT – The moving van had just arrived Friday morning, but the new president of the University of Maine at Fort Kent was wasting no time in getting down to business.
While boxes were unloaded at the president’s house, Dr. Richard Cost was the host at a media luncheon across the street on campus where he outlined his immediate goals and priorities.
“I want to get to know this region,” Cost said. “The only way we can serve the region is to know it.”
Cost, UMFK’s ninth president, takes the helm of the state’s northernmost campus at a time when reports of a looming state budget shortfall have many wondering if and where cuts will be made.
“The fact is every state is suffering major [budget] reductions in projected revenues,” he said. “Our job is to stand up and say higher education is ultimately a revenue generator [and] it is for the good of the economy to have people going to college.”
UMFK, Cost said, is in a unique position to fill that need.
“I saw coming here as an excellent career option,” he said. “This institution has an important mission serving the people of this region.”
If it comes to it, Cost said he would work to get a strong sense of the university, its mission, program strengths and needs before making any recommendations for cuts.
“My style is to get as many voices as possible at the table,” he said. “I try to get as many people as possible talking.”
Cost also hopes to head off any cuts with an aggressive fund-raising campaign, drawing on his own background as executive director of Massachusetts’ Bridgewater State College where he created a development office that has raised more than $5 million.
With 250 new students expected on campus this fall, Cost is concerned about housing them all.”One of the biggest needs we have is residence space,” he said.
The campus’s two dormitories have a capacity of 166 students. A five-year capital plan includes construction of a new dormitory with a net gain of 35 to 40 beds.
Cost said he looks forward to building on UMFK’s strong commitment to diversity among students and working toward increasing partnerships with Canada.
Cost is a retired captain in the U.S. Naval Reserve with more than 30 years of experience in higher education, leading development, public and legislative relations, admissions and institutional planning.
Joining him in Fort Kent is his wife, Ellen, most recently the director of financial aid at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. The couple has three grown children.