News

News & Events - University of Wisconsin System

Return to News | News Archive

Feb. 6, 2003

Remarks to the Board of Regents
UW System President Katharine C. Lyall

Accountability Report

"Achieving Excellence, 2002-03"

The UW System was one of the first university systems in the country to start issuing public stakeholders reports. Every year since 1993, we have issued a UW System Accountability Report showing our progress on a series of indicators ranging from access rates and faculty workloads to graduation rates; credits-to-degree; research funding; facilities maintenance; employer, alumni, and student satisfaction ratings; study abroad; and undergraduate research opportunities.

Where possible, we benchmark ourselves against national or state measures, or against our own progress over time. We take a "balanced scorecard" approach, which recognizes that we serve multiple constituencies, some of whose expectations for us may conflict. Therefore, as you review the 2002-03 Accountability Report, I hope you will look not only at the individual indicators, but think about the overall picture they paint of the tradeoffs and balances that have been struck within a necessarily limited set of resources.

The report has three sections: first, some indicators of the context in which we operated this past year and the resources available to carry out our mission; second, presentation of 20 performance measures and how they compare to national benchmarks or established targets; and finally, a compendium of other UW System reports that provide more detail on these and many other aspects of our operations. Appendices provide breakdowns by campus for many of the indicators.

We also continue this year including a set of campus-specific benchmarks and measures. There are four indicators common to all campuses—performance related to enrollment targets; retention/graduation targets; student engagement in co-curricular activities including internships, practica, and volunteer work; and performance related to credits-to-degree targets. Other indicators have been added by each campus to reflect its own particular goals and local impacts.

Operational Environment 2002-03

Our operational results reflect the demographic, economic, and political environment in which we operate. Demand for UW admission increased substantially as a declining economy sent more students back to college in search of both degrees and professional certificates. Although our fall 2002 enrollments grew 2,400 FTE over target, the state budget signed by the Governor in August 2002 reduced our base budgets by some $44 million (or about $300/student) going into the new academic year. Despite this reduction, we sustained our commitment to implement the first half of the Economic Stimulus Package by increasing enrollments in high-demand majors and by continuing our regional economic partnerships with local business throughout the state. Of necessity, we continue to diversify our funding sources: GPR now provides 31 percent of the total budget, down from 33 percent at the start of this biennium, while tuition (18 percent), gifts and grants (29 percent), and program revenue earned from operations (22 percent) provide the rest.

The UW System maintained our overall access rate at 33 percent of Wisconsin high school graduates, nearly half-again the national average access rate of about 22 percent. It is Wisconsin's high college access rate that drives the higher-than-average state spending on higher education that is noted in state spending comparisons. If Wisconsin were to reduce its higher education access rate to the national average (22 percent), some 8,000 fewer Wisconsin high school graduates would have the opportunity to go to college in-state each year, and the economic future of the state would be distinctly less bright.

A UW education remains affordable compared to other state and universities. The average cost of attendance at a UW institution takes about 14 percent of median family income in Wisconsin compared to 18 percent nationally. I would note that other states have been increasing state financial aid substantially as their tuition rises; Wisconsin just last year took the important step of linking state financial aid to tuition increases as a way to provide assurance that current affordability levels will be maintained.

Instructional workloads have shifted slightly as our campuses work to accommodate base budget cuts and maintain reasonable access to sections and coursework for students. In order to maintain sections, campuses filled some faculty vacancies with instructional academic staff with the result that faculty now teach 59 percent of total student credit hours, instructional staff teach 33 percent, and graduate assistants handle 8 percent.

External research funding rose by $41 million last year, reflecting a continuing flow of research developments in biotechnology, genetics, agrigenetics, engineering materials, as well as the selection of UW campuses as national demonstration sites for important research in teaching, and the application of the humanities and social sciences to national problems. Our research generates thousands of good-paying jobs statewide and helps the state repatriate a portion of the funds Wisconsin sends to Washington every year. UW research alone generated more than $1 billion economic impact throughout the state, making it one of the state's most important "industries" and a key to growing future incomes in Wisconsin.

I would note, however, that uncertainties about the Federal budget deficit and the requirements of war may cloud future prospects for continued growth in research budgets. We will be watching these developments carefully and asking our Congressional delegation to help us sustain the national investment in research.

2002-03 Accountability Indicators

A tabular summary of each indicator, the target/benchmark for that measure, and our performance in relation to the target/benchmark is provided at the beginning of the report.

With regard to Goal 1: Ensure widespread access and increase the pool of eligible applicants—the four performance indicators show that we have done well at maintaining access ("service rates") for traditional Wisconsin high school graduates (33 percent), increasing participation in pre-college programs (up about 27 percent), and expanding distance education opportunities statewide (distance education enrollments up 24 percent and course offerings up 12 percent). We enroll 33 percent of all Wisconsin high school graduates somewhere in the UW System (well above the national average of 22 percent); pre-college programs served more than 10,000 minority/disadvantaged students last year, up from 8,000 the year before; and more than 17,000 students were served by distance education courses. Enrollments of new freshman and degrees granted to students of color rose seven percent, but we remain challenged to increase service to non traditional students and to bring the service rate for students of color (23 percent) closer to the overall rate of 33 percent.

Goal 2: Increase persistence and graduation rates—the three indicators show that both second-year retention rates (79.5 percent) and six-year graduation rates (61.9 percent) exceed their national benchmarks of 72 percent and 48 percent respectively. The second-year persistence rate for UW students of color (74 percent) is above the national average but continues slightly below the UW persistence rate for the UW System as a whole. We have challenged ourselves to meet new benchmarks by increasing our second-year persistence rate to 82 percent and our six-year graduation rate to 64 percent with the fall 2004 cohort of entering students. We must work diligently to stay on target over the next several years, especially as our institutions make significant reductions in programs and personnel that serve our students.

Finally, we used the NSSE national survey of students and our own survey of recent graduates to see how UW graduates rate the academic support and advising available during their careers on campus. UW students rate our overall academic support services higher (69 percent vs. 61 percent) than other institutions nationally. But significantly fewer UW student graduates (57 percent vs. 61 percent) rate the quality of their academic advising as good or excellent. As you know, we have continued to make advising a part of our biennial budget request and we have heard United Council tell us that this is one of the students' top priorities as well. They feel this so strongly that students at several of our institutions have supported special differential tuition initiatives to improve advising. We will continue to work at this within the budget constraints that we face.

Goal 3: Improve learning competencies and foster critical thinking skills—These indicators show that a large share of UW graduates (75 percent or more) believe their education has helped them think critically and analytically and apply theories/concepts to practical problems. These responses equal the national benchmark responses from other four-year institutions.

UW graduates perform beyond the benchmarks in their pass rates on professional exams in nursing, CPA, MCAT, and GREs. Our challenge in this area is to ensure that our programs keep up with professional practice standards that are rising steadily and often have significant associated costs. The Education Committee is watching these trends closely and we must continue to balance enrollments with resources in these professional programs.

Goal 4: Provide students the ability to function in the global community—The number of UW bachelor's degree recipients who studied abroad for a semester or longer rose only slightly (from 3,212 to 3,336) over the past year. This constitutes about 8.5 percent of all bachelor's degree graduates last year. It is difficult to determine what portion of this slowdown in study abroad was affected by the "9/11" terrorist attacks and our heightened national sense of security, but that certainly had some effect, as has the recession and its impact on families' ability to support a study abroad experience. Certainly, these experiences underscore more than ever the importance and value of understanding other cultures and other languages. The survey of recent graduates indicates that significantly fewer UW graduates compared to the national benchmark say their education contributed to an understanding of other racial or ethnic backgrounds or afforded them the opportunity to converse with other students whose personal values, political opinions, or religious beliefs differ from their own. We continue to be challenged to find ways for more UW undergraduates to have a study abroad experience.

Goal 5: Provide student opportunities for guided research, mentoring, and citizenship learning—These indicators show that UW graduates participated more in co-curricular activities (64 percent) and did more academic preparation outside of class in teams or other collaborative modes (67 percent), but had somewhat fewer internship opportunities (67 percent) than their national counterparts. Significantly, UW graduates rate their opportunities to talk with faculty about career plans (69 percent vs. 37 percent) and their participation in community-based projects (19 percent vs. 11 percent) way above national averages, but indicate that their opportunities to work with faculty on undergraduate research projects lagged other universities. Our efforts to provide undergraduate research opportunities are relatively new, so I would expect to see this indicator rise over the next few years.

Finally, with respect to students' use of instructional technology, UW graduates use e-mail more often than their national counterparts to communicate with an instructor, but used the Internet less often to complete academic assignments, and indicate that their UW education gave them somewhat less of the personal computing skills they would have liked to have gained while in college.

Goal 6: Stewardship for resources—These indicators show that the UW System is meeting its targets for investment in faculty professional development (1.4 percent vs. 1 percent), for keeping administrative costs low (less than 6 percent vs. 10.4 percent nationally), and for reducing the number of credits taken by undergraduates (136 vs. 137 last year and 139 the year before). Both faculty and student satisfaction with availability and quality of computing services is rising. Enrollments in collaborative degree programs involving two or more UW System institutions rose, as did the number of "2+2" and other articulation agreements with Wisconsin Technical College System institutions . Finally, substantial progress has been made in upgrading classrooms with basic (Level 1 and Level 2) technology, but significant needs still remain to equip classrooms with full distance learning technologies. It appears that the current state deficit may further constrain progress on this if capital budget allocations for renovation and maintenance are reduced or frozen in 2003-05.

So, how are we doing overall? The quantitative answer is that we've met or exceeded our targets on 11 out of 20 measures; seven measures show mixed progress (access gap for students of color, advising, applications of theory, opportunities for students to work on faculty-guided research, satisfaction with technical computing skills learned in school, education for voting, and maintenance backlogs); and two (study abroad opportunities and increasing students' understanding of racial/ethnic differences) give us a way to go.

Perhaps a better answer, however, is that all these dimensions of our constituents' expectations challenge us to improve our performance for our students, to expand partnerships and collaborative work, and to advocate for the resources necessary to achieve these goals.

We should not take the good performance of our institutions for granted—it reflects the hard work of thousands of faculty and staff, the leadership of our chancellors, and public support for our mission. The budget cutting challenges we've faced this year, and the additional cuts we will face next year, are forcing some tough choices and will require continuing efforts from all of us, if we are to maintain our core capacity to serve Wisconsin in the future.

I noted at the start that these accountability reports describe the tradeoffs we must make year-by-year: the continuing substitution of instructional academic staff for faculty as budgets and positions are cut; the struggle to maintain our aging buildings and adapt them to modern instructional needs; the effort to increase retention/graduation rates by improving advising; the need to balance service to traditional and non traditional students; the need to balance access and affordability—are all documented in these reports. We need an open dialogue with our students, elected officials, and our graduates about these tradeoffs and where they are taking us in the long term.

I believe we all share a desire to maintain the long-term capacity of the UW System to educate Wisconsin's sons and daughters and contribute to the state's economic recovery. In the year to come, I hope we can explore and assess some of these tradeoffs to ensure that, as we take required cuts, we are not sacrificing our core capacity to serve the future.

#####