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March 10, 2005

2004-05 UW System Accountability Report:
Remarks to the Board of Regents

Kevin P. Reilly, President

University of Wisconsin System

Thank you, President Marcovich. Good morning, everyone. I am pleased, for the first time as president, to present to you the annual UW System Accountability Report, which we appropriately title "Achieving Excellence."

This is the 12th year the system has issued its systemwide Accountability Report, marking more than a decade of public reporting to the university's stakeholders.  We should all be proud that the UW System was the first in the nation to adopt a systemwide accountability report. In fact, many states continue to look to us as a model for their own accountability efforts. 

While the term "accountability" means different things for different audiences, I see it as another way to make the operations of this university more transparent. Indeed, a report like this is an important part of our commitment to openness. Before I explain a bit more about what the measures in "Achieving Excellence" mean for us, I'd like to again recognize Interim Associate Vice President Sharon Wilhelm, who will talk a little bit about how to interpret the report, and the philosophy behind it.

As I now review this year's measures, please keep in mind why this accountability report was designed. It was designed to:

  • Serve as a "balanced scorecard" that enables our stakeholders to observe at a glance how we're doing. You'll note that our progress is measured against selected goals and benchmarks, as well as the strategic tradeoffs we must make as our resources shift.
  • It was also designed to help us strive for continuous improvement. The accountability indicators are tied to different institutional missions, as well as to our systemwide goals. We can then weigh our performance gaps against student, faculty, and state priorities to inform our budget, management, and policy decisions.

It's important to explain at this point that this accountability report is not intended to be a comprehensive look at all aspects of the UW System's mission. We have separate, extensive reports on many elements not captured here, which you'll find described in Section III of the report. These include documents on diversity, use of gift and grant funds, and university research, and many more. There are, in fact, 41 additional reports listed. 

As in the past, this year's report includes supplemental campus reports that indicate how each of our institutions performs on four common measures: 1) enrollment, 2) retention and graduation, 3) student involvement, and 4) credits-to-degree.

These reports also reflect measures that are specific to particular institutions, and that are developed from institutional strategic planning processes of those specific campuses. You will hear from one of our institutions, UW-Parkside, about its report, and progress, in just a few minutes.

Context

As you know, this past academic year presented some very real financial challenges for us and our institutions.

  • State tax support for the UW System has now declined to 26 percent of our overall resources, down from 52 percent when the UW System was created in 1974. More than half - 53 percent - of our total budget now comes from gifts, grants, and program revenue directly earned by our institutions.
  • Tuition has increased from 13 percent to 21 percent of the total UW budget during the same period.
  • The average cost to attend a UW System institution - tuition, fees, room, and board - has climbed to $8,758. That's $842 more than the cost to attend the previous year. While the UW System remains affordable compared to public colleges and universities nationally, the average UW System cost of attendance now equals 17 percent of a typical Wisconsin household income. Five years ago, that measure was less than 15 percent.
  • Only 24 percent of Wisconsin adults have a bachelor's, or higher, degree. While Wisconsin has above average college-going and graduation rates, this figure is three percentage points below the national average of baccalaureate degree holders in state populations- and it's a rate we are actively working to change. In fact, increasing the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin is one of my top priorities as president.

Overview of accountability goals

Let me give you a general overview of what this year's report found. The scorecard at the front of the report indicates that the UW System met or exceeded 12 of 20 goals. We had mixed success on four other measures, meaning we achieved part of the goal, but not the goal in its entirety. We still have work ahead of us on the four remaining goals. 

Among our successes:

  • We continued to provide immediate access for 32 percent of Wisconsin high school graduates. 
  • We increased participation by elementary and secondary students in UW System multicultural and disadvantaged pre-college programs, and served a growing number of students online.
  • We exceeded our systemwide six-year graduation rate target of 61.5 percent. While we did not meet our systemwide target in retaining students to the second year, we're still ahead of the national average rates of retention. 
  • Students give us high marks on fostering critical thinking, planned learning experiences outside the classroom, and activities that promote good citizenship.
  • We have expanded the number of collaborative academic programs in the UW System, programs that allow us to extend educational opportunities to more students by marshalling resources across our institutions. As we reported at a meeting of the Joint Legislative higher education committees last week, we have also increased transfer opportunities with the Wisconsin Technical College System, and the joint Committee on Baccalaureate Expansion identified even more opportunities for productive collaboration between our two systems.

However, we continue to struggle in some areas, and, in many cases, these challenges are directly related to the resources available to us.

  • Our students continue to rank us lower than students nationally on the quality of our academic advising and academic support.
  • We lag behind our goal for ensuring adequate classroom technology and facilities maintenance. 
  • And, as this Board has discussed, we have not yet achieved a number of our important diversity-related goals.
    • We continue to enroll more students of color as new freshmen each year, but this increase has not kept pace with the increase in the number of high school graduates of color. As a result, the percentage of students of color we serve immediately following high school has declined slightly, and is behind the percentage of all students we serve at that same point in their educational career.
    • A gap persists between the retention and graduation rates of students of color, compared with all students. This is further impetus for our determination to close the achievement gap during Phase II of Plan 2008. The Regents, Chancellors, and I are committed to continuing our efforts to close this gap. While we work on a diversity report card and how to improve campus climate, we will need help, and resources, if we are to be successful.
    • We have more work to do in preparing all students for a diverse world, such as promoting study-abroad opportunities. 

Trade-offs and compromises

Budget and enrollment pressures have forced us to make some difficult compromises, the results of which are evident in our performance on our accountability goals. For example, we haven't been able to serve as many nontraditional students as we had hoped, but we have done a good job in preserving access for students right out of high school. Likewise, our building maintenance backlog has been growing, and we've had to reduce our academic and student support services. Now we are being asked to cut back even more in the latter area in the 2005-07 biennial budget. But while these critical academic and student support services have suffered, we've geniunely done our best to hold harmless teaching and instruction, and to protect the classroom experience.

Nonetheless, the results of some of these compromises have produced startling new realities, including:

  • Tenured and tenure-track faculty now teach only 61 percent of our total student credit hours. This is down from nearly 70 percent during the last decade.
  • The number of adult, non-traditional students being served has declined for the third year in a row, and has slipped precipitously from where it was in 1994.
  • UW instructional technology activities continue to be supported solely through base reallocations of our campus budgets.
  • In addition, our facilities maintenance continues to lag behind state-specified schedules for replacement and renewal. But there are hopeful signs that in the 2005-07 budget that the maintenance backlog will be reduced. We are working with the Governor, the Legislature, and others about ways to streamline the capital budget process, which will stretch our limited capital funds. This, and other improvements in the Regents 2004 "Charting" study, will be essential if we are to be able to chip away at maintenance backlogs in the future.

Now, before I conclude my remarks and take a few questions, I'd like to introduce Chancellor Jack Keating, who will share his view on how UW-Parkside is working to meet its accountability goals.

Chancellor Keating.

I'd also like to thank Interim Assistant Vice President Wilhelm and her team in the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research - Todd Bailey, Gail Bergman, David Blough, Kelly Campbell, Sue Michalek, Jared Thomas, and Kevin Welch. They are responsible for compiling and analyzing this wealth of information contributed from all functional areas of UW System administration and the individual institutions. Thanks to all of you for your dedication and diligence.

To close on this topic, let me mention that there are, of course, additional challenges not directly measured in "Achieving Excellence." Nonetheless, if we are to better serve students and Wisconsin citizens, it will be critical for us to meet these challenges. Among them:

  • We must maintain or improve upon the modest reinvestment provided for the university in the Governor's 2005-07 budget proposal.
  • A competitive pay plan for our faculty and staff is also a pressing concern. If we are to recruit and retain even the reduced number of faculty now on our campuses, we must be able to properly compensate them, and their academic staff colleagues. Again, the Governor has recognized this situation in his proposal for a faculty retention fund and domestic partner benefits, but more support for the pay plan is also needed.
  • Finally, securing additional student financial aid will be increasingly necessary for to our neediest students. We have already seen a decline in the proportion of our new freshmen coming from families with incomes in the lowest two quintiles. And as we've said on more than one occasion, we all know that talent and creativity are not restricted to higher-income levels.

Success on these points - and the report results we're considering today - are only possible because of the exceptional efforts of our chancellors, our provosts, our faculty, and all our staff. It is their creativity and hard work that allows us to fulfill our missions of teaching, research and public service, even in tough fiscal times. Their collective energy has led to success in the short run, and with the proper support, we can achieve even greater excellence next year, and in years after that.

With that, Sharon, Jack, and I will be happy to try to respond to any questions or hear any comments you may have about the 2004-05 Accountability Report.