Harvey Kesselman, a longtime college administrator in New Jersey, has been named the new president of the University of Southern Maine, officials announced Wednesday.

“The very best days of USM are ahead of us and I am beyond inspired that you have asked me to be a part of this promising future,” said Kesselman, who is provost and executive vice president at Stockton University. “We have much work to undertake and notable goals to pursue. We will toil, we will labor, we will sweat. But, we will do so together, pursuing a shared vision that we will have created together.”

Kesselman takes over as USM grapples with ongoing financial problems, spurred by declining enrollment, flat state funding and three years of frozen tuition. In the last year, 51 faculty positions were eliminated and five academic programs were eliminated in cost-cutting measures.

The time is right for new leadership, Kesselman said.

“What I have picked up on in conversation with staff and faculty is that there is great enthusiasm to move forward,” he said.

“He is the right leader for this university, its students and for Maine,” Chancellor James Page said.

Kesselman succeeds David Flanagan, who was appointed to a one-year term in July, replacing Theodora Kalikow, who stepped down after two years as interim president.

Kesselman will be paid $235,000 annually and have a six-year contract. He will take office July 1.

Typically, University of Maine system presidents have rolling two-year contracts, and are guaranteed full pay through the full contract even if they are removed. Kesselman can be removed at any time during his contract, but he would have to carry a full teaching load and would be paid two-thirds of his salary, or $172,500.

Page said they changed the standard contract in acknowledgment of the controversy that happened after previous USM presidents left their posts but continued to earn full pay.

Kesselman said his top priorities at USM will be increasing student recruitment and retention to boost enrollment and tuition revenue, he said.

“Our success will be based on student success,” he said. “By improving student success, so many other things will improve.”

He also embraces the metropolitan university model, and expects USM and its students will become more deeply involved in the local community, from internships to research.

“The blueprint has been laid out,” he said. “There’s a fundamental belief that the metropolitan university model for this university is the one that will catapult us over the next few years.”

Page said he selected Kesselman because they agree on what needs to happen next at USM, from implementing the metropolitan university model to focusing on student recruitment and retention.

“Harvey’s priorities tie in with what I think the priorities of Southern Maine’s need to be,” Page said. “We don’t have much margin for error to work with.”

At Stockton University, Kesselman oversaw a $75 million operating budget, 800 employees and 8,600 students. USM has a $127 million budget, 1,100 employees and 6,000 students. At Stockton, he said, they also faced changing demographics, drops in state funding and pressure to grow.

Kesselman said USM and Stockton were similar in many ways, including that both are comprehensive universities that combine teaching and research, they’re about the same size, both have division III athletics and both have multiple campuses.

Kesselman was selected above finalist Glenn Cummings, interim president of the University of Maine at Augusta and former speaker of the Maine House. A third finalist, Jose Sartarelli, chief global officer and dean of the business school at West Virginia University, withdrew his bid.

During his 35 years at Stockton, Kesselman also served as dean and professor of education, interim vice president for administration and finance, special assistant to the president and vice president for student affairs.

Kesselman has a doctorate in higher education administration from Widener University, a private university in Pennsylvania, a master’s degree in student personnel services/counseling from Rowan University in New Jersey and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Stockton College.