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Board approves 5.5% tuition increase to help maintain quality education in face of budget cuts (July 14, 2011)

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July 14, 2011

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents
July Meeting
Day One News Summary

July 2011 Day 1

Board approves 5.5% tuition increase to help maintain quality education in face of budget cuts

MADISON – As part of approving a $5.6-billion annual operating budget, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today approved by an 11-4 vote a 5.5% average tuition increase for resident undergraduates at the UW System’s four-year campuses.

The same 5.5% tuition increase was also approved for the 13 freshman-sophomore UW Colleges – the first tuition increase at those schools in five years.

In recommending the tuition rates, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly noted that in times of continued economic turbulence, any tuition increase is tough to swallow. “Again, this is a discussion about balancing the quality of education with the price students have to pay for that education. In the end, it’s a question about the value proposition we offer to our students and their families,” Reilly said.

He reiterated that the additional revenue generated by the tuition hike – about $37.5 million – would offset less than one-third of the $125-million cut in state funding to the University in 2011-12.

Reilly pointed out that enrollment in UW System institutions is at an all-time high, and the need for educated citizens is expected to continue to grow in a dynamic global economy. “As we present this annual operating budget, we are keeping our eye on the long-term goal of preserving broad access to a high-quality educational experience,” Reilly said.

He added that while the state’s biennial budget provides significant new operational flexibilities to the University, Chancellors, Provosts and others will still need to make very tough choices about the allocation of diminishing resources on their campuses.

The recommended tuition increase would mean that UW-Madison tuition will rise by a total of $659 for the coming academic year. That total includes a 5.5% general tuition increase of $409, plus the $250 differential tuition increase for the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates. Even with the total $659 annual tuition increase, Reilly said UW-Madison’s tuition is still projected to be the second- or third-lowest among the Big 10 universities.

With the 5.5% increase, tuition at UW-Milwaukee would increase by $400 annually. At the comprehensive campuses, the average increase would be $311 annually.

Reilly told the Board that about two-thirds of UW System undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid, and about half of those receive at least one outright grant or scholarship.

Michael Morgan, Senior Vice President for Administration and Fiscal Affairs, also provided Regents with an overview of the state’s biennial budget as it relates to the UW System.

Campus leaders expressed many concerns about the impact of budget cuts.

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mike Lovell told Regents that students are frustrated with their inability to get into the classes they need to graduate on time. “Unfortunately, this problem is only going to get worse,” Lovell said.

UW-Whitewater Chancellor Dick Telfer told the Board that budget cuts will force universities to increase class sizes and cut back on high impact practices such as undergraduate research, study abroad opportunities, and tutoring. He also noted that while administrative leanness is encouraged, administrative functions are “now stripped, so we have trouble functioning, doing some of the things we need to do.”

UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells expressed appreciation for new “block grant” flexibility granted to UW institutions in the State Budget, but reminded people that “the size of the block is also important.”

UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow acknowledged that the tuition-setting process is always difficult, and the challenge is “to balance the needs of the institution and what students pay.” He reminded Regents of the Competitive University Workforce Committee findings that UW faculty already trail their peers regarding compensation. “While we all wish we didn’t have to raise tuition, we do need to keep an eye on keeping the best faculty and staff so that the educational experience continues to be outstanding,” Gow said. 

Regent President Michael Spector told Board members that as they consider the proposed annual budget, they also “should consider the more subjective matter of lifelong benefits students derive from a first-class college education, as well as whether our institutions have the resources to deliver that first-class educational experience.”

“We must also keep in mind the broader benefits that all of Wisconsin derives from having an educated workforce. We want to ensure that the UW System institutions retain a robust capacity to serve as economic engines for the state,” Spector said.

Regents John Drew, Tom Loftus, Ed Manydeeds, and Betty Womack voted against the operating budget.

While noting that he had supported tuition hikes in previous years, Drew called this increase “an attack on middle-class Wisconsin citizens.” He said a tuition hike at this time sends the wrong signal.

Echoing Drew’s concerns, Regent Manydeeds said he didn’t think it was fair to ask citizens who are already hurting to pay more to educate their children.

Regent Troy Sherven, a non-traditional student from UW-Stout who attended his first Board meeting today, said students feel like they are bearing the financial burden of the university’s budget cuts. He urged UW System leaders to clearly communicate that increased tuition revenues offset just a fraction of the reduced state funding.

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New Regents introduced

The Board welcomed two new members. Regent Mark Tyler of Woodville succeeds Regent Stan Davis as President of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board. Tyler, who previously served as Vice-President of the WTCS Board, is also the founder and president of OEM Fabricators, a steel fabricator employing about 250 people in Woodville and Neillsville.

Regent Troy Sherven, of Oregon, will serve as the new non-traditional Student Regent. Sherven expects to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Management from UW-Stout sometime in 2012. He also works full-time as the Manager of Information Systems at MCD, Inc., in Madison. He is the father of three.

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Education Committee

Panel considers innovation and reform in teacher education
The Education Committee held a panel discussion of reform work taking place at three UW System teacher preparation programs: the Alternative Careers in Teaching program at UW-Oshkosh, the Advancing STEM Education program at UW-Stout, and the Master’s in Applied Leadership in Teaching and Learning program at UW-Green Bay.

Discussions focused on innovations in alternative pathways to obtaining teaching licensure, recruitment into high-need/low-supply licensure areas, and the kinds of local and regional partnerships needed to strengthen innovation and reform.

Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin reminded Regents that UW System prepares more than 60% of the educators in Wisconsin’s public school system. “That statistic comes with enormous responsibility, and UW schools of education and colleges of arts and sciences take that responsibility very seriously,” she said.

The three presenters were Tim Kaufman, Chair of the Professional Program in Education at UW-Green Bay; Michael Beeth, Professor and Director of the EXCEL Center at UW-Oshkosh; and Mary Hopkins-Best, Dean of the College of Education, Health & Human Services at UW-Stout.

Report of the Senior Vice President
In her final report to the Board, Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin invited Faith Hensrud, Interim Provost at UW-Superior, to give a presentation about the Inclusive Excellence work taking place at UW-Superior.

Martin also took the opportunity to say a heartfelt good-bye to the committee and to thank members for their service and the tough decisions they’ve had to make over the past several years. “In my opinion, this is where the most important decisions are made. Your contributions as Regents have been vital to setting our agenda and keeping us on course,” she said.

Martin is leaving UW System to accept a position with the U.S. Education Delivery Institute in Washington, D.C.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Heard a program review of risk and liability in Service Learning Programs, as part of a joint session with the Business, Finance & Audit Committee; and
  • Approved revisions to the Regent Policy Document (RPD) on undergraduate transfer. The RPD represents the enduring policy statement and principles for transfers, whereas the System policy (revised and approved by the Board in June 2011) spells out the guidelines, procedures, and administrative practice for how the Regent policy will be implemented at all UW institutions.

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Business, Finance, and Audit Committee

Report of the Senior Vice President
Reporting to Regents on the status of the Human Resource System (HRS) implementation, Michael Morgan, Senior Vice President for Administration and Fiscal Affairs, said the technology is “working well,” but there is still “a ways to go until we can say things are normalized.”

As is common during a new system’s stabilization period, Morgan noted that campuses have been submitting inquiries about fine-tuning HRS systems and related business practices.

“It’s clear that we need to redouble efforts to ensure that we’re doing everything possible to get to the bottom of incidents we’re having as quickly as we possibly can,” said Morgan, noting the desirability of getting most concerns resolved before the major influx of people to campuses in the fall.

He also provided Regents with a general timeline for rolling out new flexibilities to campuses.

Regents updated on large IT projects
Ed Meachen, Associate Vice President for Learning and Information Technology, presented a brief status update on three large IT projects: the replacement of the mainframe-based Legacy Budget System; Phase 2 of the HRS implementation, which includes the self-service eBenefits functionality; and the Pioneer Administration Software System (PASS) Reimplementation at UW-Platteville. Meachen told the Committee that all three projects are on-time and within budget.

In other business, the Business, Finance & Audit Committee:

  • Approved delegation of additional unclassified personnel flexibilities from the Board to the UW System President, and endorsed the President’s recommendation that this authority be further delegated to Chancellors of UW institutions;
  • Approved a request to increase the Mandatory Refundable Fee collected by UW institutions to fund United Council from $2 per academic term to $3 per academic term;
  • Approved a request from the UW-Madison Department of Chemistry to make available for expenditure two-thirds of an approximately $1.4 million bequest made from the Laurabell S. Tullock estate;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s agreement with INC Research;
  • Heard a report from Elizabeth Dionne, Director of the UW System Office of Operations Review and Audit, on ongoing projects as well as information regarding current and/or pending activities of the Legislative Audit Bureau that may impact the UW System. Current ORA projects include: Risk and Liability in Service Learning Programs; Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Implementation; Higher Education Location Program (HELP); Policies Affecting Students with Disabilities; NCAA Division III Athletic Departments; Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Pilot Project; Social Media; and Academic and Career Advising; and
  • Heard a program review of risk and liability in Service Learning Programs, as part of a joint session with the Education Committee.

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Capital Planning and Budget Committee

Associate Vice President’s Report
Associate Vice President David Miller reported to the Committee that the Building Commission had approved about $26M for projects at its June meeting. The funding for those projects is approximately $17M General Fund Supported Borrowing, $6M Program Revenue, and $3M Gift Funds.

In other business, the Capital Planning & Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for authority to seek a waiver from the State Building Commission to allow single prime bidding and construct the $44.5M Education Building project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority from the State Building Commission to allow for the selection of a Construction Manager-at-Risk for the Memorial Union Theater Wing Renovation–Phase I project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to adjust the project scope and budget of the Lakeshore Residence Hall–Phase II project and construct the project for a total cost of $17M Program Revenue;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for authority to seek the release of additional building trust funds to plan the School of Freshwater Sciences and the Kenwood Interdisciplinary Research Complex;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’s request for authority to accept a gift of a single-family house situated on a 1.56 acre of land in the city of River Falls, which would function in the immediate term as the university’s “international house;” and
  • Approved UW System’s staff recommendation for approval of four All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects totaling about $3M.  One of those projects will implement energy conservation measures at Sandburg Hall on the UW-Milwaukee campus. 

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The UW System Board of Regents will resume its July 2011 meeting on Friday, July 15, at 9 a.m.,
in Van Hise Hall

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Related: July 15 (day 2) news summary