Board of Regents

Study of the UW System in the 21st Century


Preserving and Enhancing Access to Quality

  1. When faced with a choice between educational quality and access, the UW System must choose to maintain educational quality.
    Rationale: The need to maintain and enhance educational quality was, is, and must continue to be the cornerstone of the UW System as it enters the 21st century.

    "Everyone is very proud of the high access rate to the UW System and would like to keep it at that level, but there are strong reservations about anything we do that compromises the educational quality gains that were generated by Enrollment Management." Regent Kathleen Hempel - Chair, Working Group on Access & Affordability

  2. Tuition recommendations sent to the Governor and Legislature will reflect incentives and/or disincentives for reducing credits to graduation.
    Rationale: Reduced resources available to the UW System over the next several years place limits on the number of courses and credits that can be offered by UW institutions if educational quality is to be maintained. Excess credits consumed by one student can have a negative effect on the credits available to others at the current level of state subsidy. Data indicate that non-resident students and Minnesota Compact students take fewer credits to graduate than Wisconsin residents. Both sets of students pay more than Wisconsin residents, suggesting that credit consumption is at least partially responsive to cost.

    We believe that modest reductions in average credits taken can open up access for a significant number of additional students who otherwise will be denied access to the UW System. Better credit management will be accomplished through improved advising, course availability, and incentives/disincentives for reducing average credits taken. We recognize the value of "exploration" in the pursuit of an undergraduate degree and will preserve the opportunity for students to take 15% more credits than their programs require at regular tuition rates. Students will be able to continue to take courses above this threshold, but at a higher tuition rate.

  3. At least one UW System institution should pilot a four-year graduation contract by Fall 1997, with the remaining UW System institutions offering such an option by Fall 1998.Rationale: Given the concern about both access and the cost of a college education, this is potentially an important vehicle for assisting students and their families. This will be one of many choices available to UW System students in the coming years and is purely voluntary. Currently, only 14 percent of new freshmen in the UW System graduate in four-years or less, and this rate has been below 25 percent since merger in the early 1970s. The contract will commit the university to provide specified courses and sequences and will commit the student to registering for and satisfactorily completing those courses in accordance with a 4-year plan. Increasing the number of students who graduate in 4 years reduces the cost of a college education to students and enables the university to schedule its instruction resources more efficiently.

  4. Instructional technology (IT) and distance education are essential for expanding and improving the student learning experience for all students on campus and returning adults. The underlying goal is to use these tools to develop an enhanced student-centered learning environment and to remove time and place as barriers to learning, both on- and off-campus. The UW System will forward a request for new instructional technology and distance education funding as part of its 1997-99 biennial budget request that will include components for improved access to hardware and software, faculty/staff development, collaborative programming, and student support services.

    "... The over-arching goal of this working group on the use of instructional and distance education technologies ... [is] to develop and enhance the student-centered learning environment ... [and] remove the barriers of time and place for students ... If time and place are eliminated as barriers for a student so they can learn or have access to what we offer as a System we have achieved a major step." Regent Lee Dreyfus - Chair, Working Group on Instructional Technology & Distance Education

    Rationale: With the appropriate investments in infrastructure and training, IT and distance education hold the promise to improve the student learning experience for all UW students as well as expand the reach of the UW System to placebound students and working adults. These technologies allow instructors to accommodate individual differences in student goals, learning styles and abilities, with greater convenience for both students and instructors.

    We pondered some concerns expressed about the potential for an erosion in educational quality due to the use of distance education instruction. This concern was echoed in the public testimony. Because we wish technology to be our tool and not our master, these recommendations include the stipulation that distance education planning take into account necessary student/faculty interaction and consideration of the student's total needs.

    "Distance education will provide new learning opportunities for students, traditional and non-traditional, while eliminating some of the historical barriers to education. This is absolutely necessary in a society where an increasingly educated, skilled and trained workforce is needed. With the current labor shortage in Wisconsin, employers are very actively seeking educated and trained individuals and in cases where it is virtually impossible to find qualified individuals, businesses are spending an abundance of their own resources educating and training workers. Distance education will create more opportunities for individuals and provide life-long learning options for those who wish to further enhance their education." James Haney, President, Wisconsin Manufacturers Association

  5. The UW System will work with Wisconsin high schools to:
    • encourage concurrent attendance at UW Centers during the school year.
    • to provide more college credit opportunities for capable high school students.
    • to develop and offer programs that enable qualified high school seniors to enroll as freshmen at UW System institutions (i.e., "3 + 4", "3 + 2", or "4+3).

      Rationale: The total number of Wisconsin high school students taking courses at UW System institutions has also grown from about 900 in the mid-1980s to 1,200 in Fall 1995. The benefits of this practice are twofold. First, qualified high school students experience college-level courses and become better prepared academically for their freshman year. Second, earning college credit in advance reduces both the time and cost in earning a degree. The "3+2/"3+4"/"4+3" programs expand opportunities one step farther by enabling qualified high school students to begin their full-time college studies earlier than traditionally would have been the case. Using UW Centers for this purpose enables high school students to continue to live at home while starting their college work.

  6. UW Centers and UW-Extension should collaborate with the comprehensive and doctoral institutions in the delivery of upper division and distance education courses at UW Center campuses.

    Rationale: While many Center students eventually transfer to a four-year UW System institution to complete their baccalaureate studies, some are unable to pursue this option for work or family reasons. Providing the opportunity for upper-level coursework at a Center or local Extension site would allow these students to continue their studies and progress toward the baccalaureate at lower cost without leaving home. Such expanded access also makes more effective statewide use of all our faculty assets.

Keeping College Affordable

  1. The Board of Regents affirms current tuition policy: tuition increases should be moderate and predictable consistent with maintaining educational quality; and state funded financial aid (GPR) should increase at a rate no less than tuition and also reflecting increases in the number of aid eligible students.

    Rationale: Our goal of providing the broadest possible access to a quality UW education is greatly enhanced by keeping student costs affordable. Annual tuition increases for resident undergraduates have remained generally moderate and less than 10% for the past several years (see chart below). While state funded financial aid programs have not kept ppace with tuition, the Board of Regents continues to recommend this as an important principle to the Governor and Legislature.

    Annual Percent Increase in UW System Resident Undergraduate Tuition

Academic Year Madison Milwaukee Comprehensive Centers
1990-91 5.0 5.0 5.9 0.0
1991-92 3.4 3.4 3.4 3.4
1992-93 6.7 6.7 6.7 6.7
1993-94 7.3 6.3 6.3 6.3
1994-95 8.4 6.9 6.9 6.9
1995-96 5.5 6.5 6.5 6.5

    UW System institutions should actively seek private sources for student financial aid and other purposes, and should be rewarded for resulting successes.Rationale: Because state-funded student aid has not kept pace with tuition, UW System institutions need to increase private fund raising efforts, particularly at the comprehensive institutions. UW System institutions expended $7.4 million from private s ources (gifts and grants) in FY 1995 on student financial aid.

  1. UW System Administration will create materials in both electronic and print formats encouraging early saving for college, projecting the cost of attendance, and informing families about available student aid programs.

    Rationale: While the UW System is committed to keeping student costs as low as possible, one of the best ways Wisconsin families and students can prepare for the cost of college is to start saving early. Providing background materials via the Internet and other avenues on the need to save for college, projected costs, and student aid will provide essential information to prospective students, families, and school counselors.

Creating New Knowledge and Fostering Career and Professional Development

  1. Each UW System institution should pursue partnerships with other UW System institutions, K-12 districts, Wisconsin Technical College districts, governmental agencies, and the private sector.

    Rationale: Fostering partnerships within and outside the UW System will facilitate the pooling of talent and resources to meet the needs of Wisconsin citizens and employers for the 21st Century.

  2. In order to foster timely new program development and innovation, existing UW System academic programs and program planning & review policies should be reviewed on a regular basis, and needed flexibilities provided when warranted.

    Rationale: Upon reviewing the UW System's academic program array, the Program Array Working Group concluded that, while there has been dynamic change in the program array over time, the "larger portion of the UW System program array is unduplicated ...." In fact, 60 percent of the 249 separate majors offered at the undergraduate level in the UW System are offered at only one institution, and almost 90 percent are offered at one-third or fewer of the institutions (see graph below.) Further, the working group concluded that the UW System has a "good or better than average procedure for examining programs," and was impressed with recent changes that streamline system academic program policies (ACIS-1). Together, these findings suggest that the UW System has successfully pursued a policy of managed growth and development in the academic program area.

  3. In order to innovate and to respond to student demand, the Board of Regents will seek a statutory change to permit expenditure of program revenues as generated and creation of FTE positions as needed for credit (Fund 104-131) outreach instructional programs. This authority would be similar to that which the UW System already has noncredit (Fund 104-132) outreach instructional programs.

    Rationale: The ability to create positions and expend program revenue funds as they are generated for credit outreach programs will provide a significant incentive for the timely development and delivery of such programs to meet student demand and will bring the administration of credit outreach programs in line with that currently in place for non-credit outreach.

    "The UW System seems to have done a good job in allocating resources to respond to changes in enrollment and in student interests and demands." Regent San Orr, Jr. - Chair, Working Group on Program Array

  4. Invest in the training of faculty and staff to enable them to develop and utilize new technology based instruction both in the traditional classroom as well as at sites reached through distance education technology. The UW System will create a non-stock, non-profit organization to support technology-based instructional and distance education innovation and will generate $25 million to fund these initiatives from internal and external sources.

    Technological change in areas which have a major impact on education is developing at the most rapid pace in human history. The use of interactive computer-based instruction promises dramatic enhancement in the tools faculty are able to use, the timeliness of incorporating new materials in the curriculum and improving student achievement. Just as the printing press revolutionized education at the close of the Middle Ages, the new technologies can dramatically help unlease full human potential for learning.

Restructuring and Improving the Efficiencyof the UW System

  1. The following policies regarding auxiliary operations are proposed:
    • transfers out of auxiliary operations to other operating units and functions within institutions will be allowed on a one-time basis.
    • overall cost increases in auxiliary operations at each institution will be allowed to charge up to market rates for auxiliary operations, but any increase above the three-year average growth in Wisconsin per capita disposable income require Board of Regents approval.
    • preference should not be given to state residents for dormitory rooms except at institutions which require students to reside on campus.
    • the Board of Regents will review and amend as appropriate its policies on competition with the private sector to permit greater freedom to earn revenue from mission-related activities.

      Rationale: In the face of current and future revenue restrictions, UW System institutions need both the flexibility to use existing auxiliary revenue and the ability to develop alternative sources of revenue to fund operating expenses.

  2. Chancellors will provide the Board of Regents with a report on existing and planned efficiency measures by October 1, 1996.

    Rationale: The UW System is already one of the most efficient university systems in the nation. It spends a larger proportion of its budget on instruction and related activities (e.g., academic support and student services) compared with peer systems; while using a substantially lower proportion of its budget for administrative costs - 6.3% versus 10.8%. These reports will provide a mechanism for sharing existing and planned cost-saving and cost-avoidance strategies and best practices.

  3. The following flexibilities are proposed for tuition setting:
    • Comprehensive institutions will be allowed to propose differential tuition rates among themselves and by program within an institution.
    • UW System institutions will be allowed flexibility in proposing nonresident tuition rates for students from neighboring states, provided tuition at least covers marginal costs.

    Rationale: As with Madison and Milwaukee, each comprehensive institution has some unique programs with strong demand and/or special operating costs. Allowing institutions to propose differential tuition will help accommodate variances in demand, allow for the fair coverage of marginal costs, and provide the ability to charge market rates for some programs.

    Undergraduate tuition paid by non-resident students already covers more than the full cost of instruction - ranging from 113 percent of full cost at the Centers to 125 percent at Milwaukee. This ratio has been growing over the past few years; "profit" earned on non-residents helps to reduce tuition for Wisconsin resident students. The flexibility to set some non-resident rates above the marginal cost of instruction could help attract additional revenue to strengthen programs benefitting all students, resident and non-resident.

    "We found no source of outside revenue other than state dollars or tuition that was of the scale [of our projected budget needs] ... I don't think that even if we were to amend the competition with private sector policy to the extent that we permitted mission-related [entrepreneurial] activities, we could come close to raising enough funding ... The conclusion of the committee is ... if this Board is unsuccessful in advocating for state funding to support pay plan, we don't have a solution that is consistent with our objectives of access and affordability ... I would hope that members of the Board would recognize the importance in this biennium and succeeding biennia in outlining ... the consequences of the State's not maintaining its prior commitments and its prior history of support for the University System." Regent Daniel Gelatt - Chair, Working Group on Future Funding & Revenue Sources

  4. In addition to directing UW System Administration to advise on flexibilities that the UW System itself can implement, the Board of Regents will seek a number of management flexibilities from the state, including:
    • elimination of external position control and position reporting requirements.
    • freedom to establish compensation levels and terms and conditions of employment for all university unclassified staff.
    • changes to the current capital budgeting process including the ability to issue revenue bonds for projects funded by Program Revenues.
    • seeking statutory authority to permit expenditures up to 5% above the amounts shown for tuition in the appropriation schedule to the extent tuition revenues are available.
    • enhanced flexibilities in the areas of purchasing, personnel, and fiscal management.

      Rationale: These desired flexibilities would benefit students by:

    • Helping the UW System attract and retain talented faculty and academic staff who can spend more of their time on their primary responsibilities, focus on students, rather than on administrative reporting requirements.
    • Reducing delays in the implementation of program revenue-funded building projects such as dormitories and student unions.
    • Allowing institutions to add staff in a timely fashion to student-related areas.
    • Strengthening high quality programs and expanded student demand by providing additional targeted tuition revenue.

    "The UW System is the only major system of public higher education in the U.S. carrying so many outdated bureaucratic burdens ... We must free the creative forces of the system from these burdens." Regent Sheldon Lubar - Chair, Working Group on Missions and Roles

  5. The Board of Regents recommends that the concept and measurement of "productivity" be expanded to include the effectiveness of all instruction and instruction-related functions in the UW System, thereby recognizing the full array of services provided to UW students.

    Rationale: The need for improved effectiveness is not a new concept for the UW System - this has been articulated previously in both the Systemwide accountability goals and Faculty Educational Workload Policy adopted by the Board of Regents within the past two years. However, these initiatives have focused largely on issues of instructional and instruction-related inputs such as faculty classroom contact hours and allocations of expenditures among various activities. As technology rapidly changes the learning environment, including the method of instruction, the UW System needs a broader concept of "productivity" that considers all of the instruction-related resources available to the institution to meet the needs of students - faculty, instructional academic staff, graduate assistants, and related support services (e.g., student services, financial aid counselors, librarians), and the quality of the educational experience and educational outcomes produced with these combined resources.


While this is the "final report" of the Study, this report only identifies what needs to happen next. Making it happen will require a more specific implementation plan, to be presented to the Board of Regents by the President in the fall of 1996, showing how these recommendations will actually be put into effect.

Another aspect of the Study also continues: a sincere invitation for continuous public commentary concerning the policies, programs and performance of the UW System.

The involvement of more than 1,200 persons in responding to the preliminary recommendations of the Study was evidence, if any was needed, that the people of Wisconsin continue to care deeply about, and want the best for, the system of public higher education that they have created and sustained for so long.

It is the hope and desire of the Board of Regents that the dialogue continue. The involvement of the public, both directly and through a citizen Board of Regents, and the state's executive and legislative branches, and students and faculty and staff through Wisconsin's shared governance process, remains essential for an institution that draws its true strength, not from the treasury, but from the trust of those it serves.


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