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Aug. 19, 2004

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
August 2004 Meeting
News Summary

Regents: Wisconsin must reinvest in UW System

Board unanimously approves 2005-07 budget request

UW System Board of RegentsUW System Board of Regents

MADISON - Signaling the dire need for restored quality and increased access to the University of Wisconsin System, the Board of Regents on Thursday (Aug. 19) unanimously approved its 2005-07 operating budget and capital budget requests to the state.

The operating budget request totals an annual average increase of $105.8 million over the biennium. The request includes an average 7.2 percent in state support each year.

"When it comes to success, the state and the university are increasingly joined at the hip," said incoming UW System President Kevin Reilly. "In this budget, we request a modest reinvestment following the deepest cuts in the university's history."

Kevin Reilly, UW System President SelectKevin Reilly, UW System President Select

The centerpiece of the 2005-07 operating budget request [pdf] is a new initiative to increase access to higher education for students from low-income families. The plan would provide financial aid grants to students from families with incomes less than $46,000 to cover any future tuition increases, dollar-for-dollar. The program would require an average annual increase of $4.9 million in state support.

The operating budget also calls for funds to restore quality lost due to recent budget cuts. The plan, requiring an average annual increase of $42.5 million in state support and fees, would allow the UW System to hire additional faculty to teach students and conduct research, and after six years, would result in an additional 1,000 graduates eligible to join Wisconsin's workforce.

Among other initiatives, the operating budget also includes a request for funding to recruit and retain faculty and staff. The request would allow the university to offer competitive compensation to its faculty and staff, who ended the last fiscal year 5.49 percent behind their peers.

An average increase of $50.7 million annually would go toward meeting standard budget adjustments, including rising costs for utilities, fringe benefits and debt service, none of which directly supports student instruction. Another average increase of $3.6 million each year would go to support libraries and instructional technology.

In explaining the budget process, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall noted that Thursday's vote was the first step in a long chain of events, and was not a "tuition-setting step." Undergraduate tuition rates, which are determined by the state Legislature, will be made final after the 2005-07 state budget is set, likely in July 2005.

If the plan approved Thursday by the board is ultimately adopted by Gov. Jim Doyle and the state Legislature, undergraduate tuition would rise an average of 4.3 percent each year. Pay plans could add an additional 0.6 percent increase for each percent in salary increase approved by the Governor and Legislature.

The 2005-07 capital budget request [pdf] includes $227 million in state supported borrowing over 20 years to complete construction and renovation projects across the system's 26 campuses. It also includes acceptance of $88.8 million in gifts and grants for capital projects, and includes $229.9 million in borrowing over 20 years that will be paid back with dollars generated by the university.

"Budgets are reflections of our core values; they are the most visible way that large, complex organizations like the UW System publicly signal their purposes, their goals, their accomplishments, and their needs," Lyall said. "It is our aspirations for our students and our state that drive this budget request and our continuing commitment to our public purpose as a public university."

Padmanabhan Sudevan, Professor of Psychology, UW-Stevens PointPadmanabhan Sudevan, Professor of Psychology, UW-Stevens Point

The board approved the budgets after hearing testimony from students, faculty and staff, who told of the need to restore quality in the university's teaching, research and public service; and to improve access for students from low-income families.

Padmanabhan Sudevan, professor of psychology at UW-Stevens Point, told the board that recruiting and retaining top faculty on campus is essential if the university is to effectively restore quality.

Sudevan testified about several faculty members who have chosen to leave the UW System to accept much more lucrative offers out of state.

 "We need to concentrate on faculty to a greater extent than we have in the past few years," he said. "Without faculty, students do not benefit from the education they receive."

Jeff McKinnon, professor of biological sciences at UW-Whitewater, explained to the board the responsibilities of faculty members in today's teaching and research environment, noting that expectations far exceed current compensation levels.

View McKinnon's Powerpoint [pdf]

"When you don't pay people what they are paying at other institutions, you don't lose people at random. You lose your best people," McKinnon said. "The amount of money is takes for this investment is small compared to the returns."

David WoodwardDavid Woodward, Financial Aid Officer, UW-River Falls

Frank Emspak, an associate professor in the School for Workers at UW-Extension, also testified that UW staff are earning far less than what they deserve for the professional skills they bring to the university.

"Access is more than simply being allowed in to the university," Emspak said. "Access also means access to a quality education."

More students are applying for, and receiving, financial aid, but the average awards have not kept pace with tuition increases, putting low-income students at considerable disadvantage, said David Woodward, financial aid officer at UW-River Falls.

"At the very least, the neediest students need to be held harmless from future increases in tuition and fees," Woodward said.

View Woodward's presentation [pdf]

Mark Keller, a non-traditional transfer student from UW-Stevens Point, testified about the importance of a high student-faculty ratio in assisting students in receiving a high-quality education.

Mark Keller, student, UW-Stevens PointMark Keller, student, UW-Stevens Point

Keller remarked that at UWSP, assignments that require students to practice their writing and critical-thinking skills are "becoming a thing of the past," as professors simply do not have the time to grade the written work of students who have increasingly larger class sizes.

"[I]t is important that we reverse this negative trend," Keller said. "As a student, I believe that the teaching staff should be the primary focus of this new budget."

Read Keller's remarks

Joe Weier, a non-traditional student from UW-Milwaukee, spoke of his personal experiences with reduced services and difficulty paying tuition as a result of the previous biennial budget cuts.

Weier noted that he has experienced a decrease in both the amount of academic advising and access to the educational resources he needs to complete his coursework.

 

Joe Weier, student, UW-MilwaukeeJoe Weier, student, UW-Milwaukee

"[T]he fall 2004 term is the first semester that I will need to secure significant financial assistance to offset the sharp increases in tuition," Weier said. "My request is for the state of Wisconsin to reinvest state dollars in the UW System."

Read Weier's remarks

Brad Stafford, Student Government President at UW-Stout, spoke about the need to invest in educational technology and supporting resources to give students a quality education.

Stafford told the board that the laptop program at UW-Stout allowed him to overcome a learning disability and achieve success in the classroom. He noted that students involved in courses that utilize laptop and other educational technologies have a 10 percent higher chance of success than those students who are enrolled in courses that do not utilize these resources.

"Funding technology is imperative for developing the graduates who will enter the 21st century workforce," Stafford said.

Mike Quieto, co-President of the UW-Madison Teaching Assistants Association (TAA), pointed out that he often switched his class and office hours to the weekends to better accommodate lower- and middle-income students who worked almost full time during the week. He noted that to be successful, students need more contact with faculty, supplemented by help from teaching assistants and other academic staff.

He charged the board to view this budget request as a demand, saying, "Start making demands, stand up and fight, show we are committed to higher education."

Stephanie Hilton, President, United CouncilStephanie Hilton, President, United Council

Bert Johnson, a student at the UW-Madison Law School, testified that the state budget process seems to pit different groups against one another, including students against faculty. Johnson said that politicizing this process was just a way to "pass the buck" to students who do not have a political identity at the Capitol.

"Raising tuition is not a solution," Johnson said.

Stephanie Hilton, president of the United Council of UW Students, noted that the organization's priorities for the 2005-07 budget request included full state funding for financial aid, minimal tuition increases, restoring faculty positions, competitive faculty salaries, maintaining services for students with disabilities, and the expansion of library and technology resources.

"Wisconsin's economy cannot survive without an educated workforce," Hilton said.

She also remarked that United Council and the New Voters Project are working to increase student voter turnout in the next election, in hopes of electing individuals who value and understand the importance of higher education funding for the future of Wisconsin.

Hilton thanked the regents and UW System staff for conducting an open biennial budget process, allowing diverse voices to be heard. Hilton finished her remarks by reciting a poem from Shel Silverstein, which made the point about the possible "Whatifs" that surround the budget process.

Read Hilton's remarks

Donald Mash, Chancellor, UW-Eau ClaireDonald Mash, Chancellor, UW-Eau Claire

Overall, the state has suffered in recent decades because budget constraints have forced the UW System to hold back from many activities it could be doing to further improve the state's economy, such as improving access for adult learners and increasing numbers of graduates, UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash told the board.

"We have focused on other things, and that's bad for Wisconsin's future," Mash said, adding that the UW System stands for potential and possibilities. "This is about Wisconsin, and all that can still come with reasonable investment."

Following the testimony, regents discussed several options for moving the budget request forward, including modifying details about the budget initiatives and requesting that the funding be drawn from difference sources of support, but the resolution passed without amendment.

Several regents spoke in support of the request, saying that while the board was asking the state to provide significant levels of funding in an uncertain economy, the request is what is required for quality and access throughout the UW System.

"Good K-12 schools cost money, good roads cost money, and good higher education costs money," said Regent Guy Gottschalk of Wisconsin Rapids. "I'm willing to pay more so that my grandson doesn't grow up in Wississippi."

Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville agreed, saying he was reassured knowing that UW System chancellors were also supportive of the request.

"I don't think we should be afraid to ... say 'this is what we need,' " Axtell said.

Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee noted that he particularly favored approving the request for financial aid that provided for students from families in the two lowest-income levels, rather than just those from the lowest bracket.

Regent Peggy Rosenzweig said she understood that observers will have "sticker shock."

"This is a big ask, but I am persuaded that this is the right course," she said.

Regents initially voted 14-2 to pass the operating budget. In a show of solidarity, the board approved a motion by Regent Vice President David Walsh, who cast one of the no votes, that the vote be re-recorded as unanimous.

The budgets were largely developed with guidance from the Regents' study of the university's future, titled Charting A New Course for the UW System. The requests will be forwarded to the state Department of Administration next month.

Board honors departing leaders

President Katharine C. LyallPresident Katharine C. Lyall

Katharine C. Lyall accepted an extended standing ovation following a resolution from the board on Thursday, when she participated in her last full board meeting as UW System President. She will retire at the end of the month.

Board members each took a turn reading a portion of a resolution in appreciation of Lyall's work as president, a position she held for 13 years.

Lyall imparted the board with several words of wisdom, underscoring the importance of the people who make the university the great institution it is, and noting the individuality of each campus and overall mission that makes the UW System so unique.

"Never lose faith in the ability of education to change lives," Lyall said. "I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for giving me this opportunity."

In September, Lyall, an economist, will begin a year's appointment as a visiting senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo Alto, Calif.

Read Lyall's farewell remarks

Regent Nino Amato (left) and Regent Gerard A. RandallRegent Nino Amato (left) and Regent Gerard A. Randall

Regent Gerard Randall of Milwaukee introduced a resolution that the board passed to honor Nino Amato, who recently completed his service on the board as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System.

In thanking the board for the recognition, Amato said there were few in Wisconsin who don't respect the UW System and the state's technical colleges for their potential. He warned, however that costs are spiraling out of control and may eventually rob the state of its valuable educational systems.

"In truth, the Wisconsin Idea is becoming an empty promise," Amato said.

Amato also encouraged the board to work to reverse the trends of reduced funding for public higher education and when possible, to take strong actions, such as implementing a tuition freeze.

Also on Thursday, the board thanked former Chancellor Bill Messner for his leadership and service of the UW Colleges. Regent Elizabeth Burmaster noted that the UW Colleges grew by one-third during Messner's tenure, and said that Messner was a man of "great wit, charm and integrity."

Messner began his appointment as president at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts this week. The board on Thursday also unanimously passed a resolution to authorize a search for his replacement.

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The Board of Regents will hold its next meeting September 9-10 in Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.


Read Aug. 19 news release