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May 8, 2003

Remarks on the UW Budget

Guy Gottschalk, President, UW System Board of Regents

Good morning. Before we begin today, I want to greet our new members to the Board of Regents. Yesterday, the Governor announced three new appointments to the board - Eileen Connolly Keesler, Charles Pruitt and Beth Ann Richlen. He also announced that Mark Bradley, who was appointed to the Board in January, would begin serving on the board as of May 1. We are pleased that you are officially aboard, Mark. Also beginning his tenure at this meeting is Nino Amato, President of the Wisconsin Technical College Board. Welcome, Nino.

Eileen could not be with us today but she is well known to UW-Oshkosh and serves as executive director of the Oshkosh Area Community Foundation. We do want to welcome Beth Richlen as well. Beth is the student body president here at UW Stevens Point. Many of you met her at our Stevens Point listening session and at the April Regent dinner. She is graduating soon and will enroll as a law student at UW-Madison in the fall.

Chuck runs a Fox Point company, AB Data, which does direct-mail marketing, fund raising and constituency development firm. His also is a former assistant professor of political science at St. Olaf College in Minnesota so he comes with some first-hand experience in higher education. Chuck will begin on July 1. Welcome to all of you. We look forward to serving with you.

Before we begin, I wanted to briefly update you on the 2003-05 budget deliberations. As you know, the Joint Finance Committee has concluded its hearings on the Governor's proposed biennial budget and has begun to vote on budget items.

We expect the university budget to be voted on by the committee within the next few weeks.

I appreciate the many visits and conversations that our Regents, Chancellors, President and university relations staff had with Joint Finance members. At this point, it is fair to say that members understand the magnitude of the cuts we are facing and the pain they will cause on our campuses. They realize that the university is taking an unfair proportion of the cut. They understand the importance of the tuition increase to minimize the impacts of the GPR cuts on our students and instruction.

At the same time, there is growing concern that the revenue sources in the Governor's budget may not materialize. There is strong pressure on legislators to restore some of the transportation fund money and there is strong pressure to hold the line on cuts to shared revenue.

We have our work cut out for us over the next few weeks to continue making the case that in terms of cuts to the university, to quote a recent editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal, "enough is enough."

We must continue to stress our four concerns:

  • No deeper cuts to UW System. Ninety-nine cents of every state dollar does directly to our campuses. They have developed plans, though painful, to deal with the Governor's cut. But additional cuts, coming when we already have admitted students for the fall, could be devastating.

  • We need legislators to approve the proposed tuition increases of $350/semester at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee and $250/semester at all of our other campuses. We have strong student support for these increases. In your packets, we have enclosed resolutions from several of our student governments - UW-Platteville and UW-Washington County in support of the tuition increases. These are coming from our customers, if you will, who would rather see their tuition go up than see their educational quality and choices decline. Even with these increases, we will be left to cope with a $100 million cut.

  • Provide Governor's proposed financial aid increases. These are needed to make tuition increases affordable for our less affluent students. In my discussions with legislative leaders, they acknowledge the unfairness of taking these funds from our auxiliary funds and hope to find a long-term funding source for financial aid.

  • Finally, we must continue to urge our legislators not to micromanage the university. These cuts present an enormous challenge to our president and chancellors. They have been working for months on plans to meet these cuts in ways that best preserve access and student services. It is important that these cuts be made by those who are closest to the operation. It is also important to explain how we define efficiency. The UW System educates one-third of Wisconsin's high school graduates for $1,000 per student less than the national average and very low tuition. That, I would argue, is efficiency.

We have a lot of support for the university coming from around the state - President Lyall and I get copies of letters every day that are being sent to the Joint Finance members and legislative leadership from alumni, business leaders, former Regents and other friends of the university.

Also in your packet this morning is a letter that was sent yesterday to the (Joint Finance) Committee members from friends of the university, some of whom attended our recent listening sessions. We are grateful for this show of public support.

I think we must continue to put these cuts to the university in context. The university is being asked to take 38% of the cuts to state spending even though it is only 9% of the state budget.

Ten years ago, Wisconsin ranked 13th in the nation in per capita state appropriations for higher education. Today, it ranks 28th in the nation. In this measure, Wisconsin has fallen faster than any state in the nation. In contrast, Arkansas ranks 17th. Mississippi ranks 9th.

In our K-12 system in Wisconsin, we are spending about $10,000 public dollars per student; in our university system, we are spending $6,500 per student and that amount will fall to $5,000 once this budget is passed.

We have a good development to report related to the budget.

On Monday, the Joint Operating Committee on Employment Relations met and approved the pay package, which Governor Doyle signed yesterday, for our classified employees. Our classified workers will receive a 1% raise retroactive to July 2001, a 2% raise retroactive to July 2002, and a final 2.5% raise retroactive to April 2003. The UW System has 10,000 classified employees who had been working for nearly two years without a raise. These employees are essential to the smooth operation of our institutions and these adjustments are well-deserved.

The Governor has indicated that future negotiations will include a health insurance co-payment plan for both classified and unclassified staff.

It is well to be reminded that our most important asset as a university system is our faculty and staff. We appreciate all that they do. For their sake, we hope that budget negotiations will be concluded quickly.

Our fall classes have been largely admitted. We have committed to teaching the classes advertised in our timetables. We have committed to housing students in our residence halls. Whatever the budget outcome, our faculty and staff will need to honor these commitments.

For our part, it is important that we act quickly upon the budget's conclusion to set next year's tuition rates so that parents and students can make their financial plans.

That concludes my update on the budget. Are there any questions or comments?