Office of the President
Kevin P. Reilly, President
March 2, 2005
Committee members, thank you for inviting me to participate in today's conversation. I want to extend a special thank you to Senator Harsdorf and Representative Kreibich for their efforts to bring the respective legislative higher education committees together for this discussion.
At the start of my presidency in September, I pledged that we would work to continue the University of Wisconsin System's record of excellence. I committed the university to improving efficiency, maintaining quality, and operating more openly. I also said that we would take every opportunity to demonstrate how Wisconsin taxpayers benefit from their investment in higher education.
The report we submitted just last month to the Joint Legislative Audit Committee regarding our administrative staffing levels furthers all of these commitments. In our efforts to meet our mission as efficiently and effectively as possible, I am pleased to tell you that the UW System has more than 250 efficiency measures underway. We are also in the process of eliminating 225 administrative, academic, and student support service jobs.
I remain confident that ours is the most administratively efficient public higher education system in the nation. Nevertheless, we can never lose sight of our goal to be as resourceful as possible.
I have devoted much of my initial six months as president to strategically aligning administrative structures and personnel to best fulfill the UW System's teaching, research, and public service missions. Reducing administrative costs is a means, not an end. If we simply reduce costs without being attentive to service and mission, then we will have failed.
I am also aware of the significance of leading by example. I began by eliminating the UW System President's Inaugural event, and I've already implemented several administrative improvements at the System level. I've eliminated a state relations position, as well as the position of vice president for university relations. I have converted an associate vice president position in our Office of Policy Analysis and Research to a lower-level assistant vice president. I have also eliminated our market research unit in its entirety.
In addition, I have changed the role of the senior vice president for administration to an executive vice president, namely Donald Mash, former chancellor of UW-Eau Claire.
Not only do these changes give us the opportunity to re-evaluate how we do things, but they are expected to save $650,000 a year.
To manage state funding cuts while satisfying increased demand for our services, the UW System as a whole has reduced administrative staff and made major changes in operations and service delivery.
The report submitted last month detailed the approximately 225 administrative positions UW institutions have eliminated in the past few years alone. It's important to note that the majority of these position cuts were in response to state funding reductions. If it holds, the Governor's budget proposal would require us to cut an additional $35 million and 200 more administrative positions over the biennium — on top of the 225 already eliminated. The support for these positions would be reallocated to the instructional side of our operations, which will mean even further academic & student support service reductions.
The 225 job cuts we have already made include several senior management positions at the campus level.
For example, campuses have cut the positions of Assistant Chancellor for Administration, Assistant Chancellor for Advancement, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Information Services, Assistant Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management, and Assistant Vice Chancellor for Library. In some cases, their duties were re-assigned to several individuals, with the tasks being performed at a reduced level.
We have taken great pains to minimize the impacts of these reductions on students. However, the reductions are noticeable in academic and student support services.
For example, campuses have had to reduce academic and career counseling services for students. Admission application processing is slower, and operating hours for libraries and student computer labs have been cut back. We've also had to reduce our outreach to adult learners and Extended Degree students.
In general, position reductions are limiting our ability to manage risk and liability issues, and to process orders, bidding, and purchasing in a timely fashion.
Although these many cost-saving measures have required patience from many of our stakeholders, these actions save Wisconsin taxpayers nearly $15 million each year. We are re-directing these dollars toward instruction and other strategic priorities, as I mentioned earlier.
As we have done in the past, future changes will also be based on careful analysis to minimize the negative impact of support services cost reductions on students, faculty, and the communities we serve.
The Board of Regents has supported my recommendation to consolidate the Madison-based administrative functions of the UW Colleges and UW-Extension. We will soon launch a search for a single leader of both institutions, thereby eliminating a Chancellor position.
I proposed this consolidation following a four-month, external study of the functions and missions of these institutions. That study included meetings and consultation with faculty, staff, and administrative leadership of both institutions. I also drew upon my eight years of experience as chancellor and provost of UW-Extension.
Our goal for the consolidation, which we will have to work "hard and smart" to achieve, is to gain administrative efficiencies and savings, while strengthening the capacity of these two institutions to serve their local communities and the state as a whole.
This kind of consolidation makes sense, given the history of these two institutions. For example, several of the Colleges' campuses were part of UW-Extension until the 1960s. In addition, some administrative services have been shared between Colleges and Extension in the past, such as payroll and benefits.
Today, both UW-Extension and the UW Colleges are thriving statewide educational networks operating at geographically dispersed locations. Both are key public gateways for Wisconsin citizens to access higher education. Both have central administrative offices headquartered in Madison, and both have longstanding, productive partnerships with county and local governments.
Just to give you a flavor of what could result, let me mention three possible examples of innovative collaborations the Colleges/Extension consolidation could produce:
- Combining UW-Extension's distance learning capacity and UW Colleges' established degree and course offerings to greatly expand access for Wisconsin residents to achieve a college education;
- Addressing local economic development through a collaborative approach by extension and campus faculty and staff from both institutions; who bring different perspectives to solving local problems in a complementary way; and
- Following the Washington State example of having UW-Extension County Cooperative Extension offices serve as UW Colleges information and intake centers.
These ideas are just few instances of the kinds of things Colleges and Extension faculty and staff are thinking about. Together, they have already gone beyond what I had in mind regarding administrative consolidation in Madison.
Finding the best person to serve as the chief executive officer of this new structure is only the beginning of this process. With the right leadership, we can save as much as $1.5 million in administrative costs while preserving and improving quality and access, and enhancing the distinct, but complementary, missions of UW Colleges and UW-Extension. I would add that our plans do not preclude consideration of other ideas for efficiency and effectiveness in the structure of the university.
As part of work on "Charting a New Course for the UW System," the 2004 study by the Board of Regents on the university's long-term future, the UW System and the Board have also developed additional proposals related to state processes that could save taxpayers as much as $21.6 million. It will take the cooperation of the Legislature and state agencies, but we can make these efficiencies a reality.
Our ongoing efficiency plans are part of everything we do to better serve students and citizens. It's important to realize that we have achieved these efficiencies during a time of declining state support, while increasing access for Wisconsin students. Our campuses are serving approximately 10,000 more students than a decade ago — the equivalent of adding a new campus the size of UW-Eau Claire, while saving taxpayer dollars in the process.
And we're not done yet. We have and will continue to embrace all of the recommendations that emerged from the Legislative Audit Bureau's review of the university's administrative staffing. Last month's report was the first of several ways we will be communicating our progress to the Legislature, the Governor, and state taxpayers.
And we must not forget why we are fulfilling all of these commitments. Our biennial budget request outlined the UW System's commitment to ensuring Student Access and contributing to Wisconsin's Success. I am hopeful that when the final budget is delivered, it will include the reinvestments this university so profoundly needs.
We look forward to working with the members of your committees, the Joint Finance Committee, the Joint Committee on Employment Relations, the full Legislature, and the Governor to sustain and advance the UW System. We must rebuild quality in our classrooms, restore faculty positions, increase the number of bachelor's-degree holders in this state, and educate and support our 160,000 students. All of our plans and proposals will help us achieve these important goals.
That concludes my remarks on this topic. I'd be happy to take questions now, or after Representative Kreibich's presentation. Thank you for your time.
For the past several years, the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Technical College System have been working to improve the experience for students who wish to transfer between our two systems.
Last year, the Board of Regents and the Wisconsin Technical College System Board jointly approved several credit transfer initiatives to ensure a more seamless educational experience for transfer students in Wisconsin.
Not only are we better serving current students through these new initiatives, but we have paved the way for success in future collaborations. I'm grateful to President Clancy and both of our staffs for their hard work to ensure these policies are academically sound, and helpful for students who need them.
We are continuing to jointly implement a six-point transfer plan. The transfer initiatives are responsive to the needs of our undergraduates, and directly address the state's need for workers who can thrive in knowledge-economy careers.
First, for the first time, we have made it possible for all students to transfer technical college credits earned in occupational or technical courses when they continue their college career at a UW institution. This changes previous practice, in which technical college students could get credit for these courses only through specific articulation agreements. Faculty members review these credits to make sure they are equivalent to the instruction at a UW campus. We believe that this initiative will result in a significant increase in credit transfer as we move forward.
Second, WTCS students may now transfer as many as 30 — up from 25 —general education credits from technical college degree programs to a UW institution. The total number of credits a student can transfer depends on his or her chosen major and UW campus.
Third, we are continuing to build upon our degree completion programs and articulation agreements. These agreements allow technical college students to transfer up to 60 credits toward certain UW four-year degree programs. The improvement here is that students receive a written agreement that outlines not only if courses will transfer, but how they apply, and what additional requirements a student will have to satisfy to complete his or her degree program. These written agreements are a great advising tool.
Fourth, we have established a new credit transfer contract. Through this contract, technical college students can confirm how their courses will transfer toward a UW degree by referencing the online Transfer Information System, or what we call "TIS."
The Transfer Information System is student-friendly in its design, and because it is online, students can access official course and transfer information wherever they are. This is what current & future want, and will use. I've asked Larry Rubin, from our Academic Affairs office, to demonstrate a bit about how the program works.
The fifth part of the transfer plan enables students who complete a liberal arts associate degree at MATC-Madison, MATC- Milwaukee, or Nicolet Area Technical College, to automatically satisfy university-wide and college general education breadth requirements, just as any UW associate degree holder can. These technical college associate degree programs are now being re-aligned to ensure a closer match with the curriculum at UW campuses.
I will turn this over to President Clancy to discuss the sixth initiative — our efforts to expand the number of baccalaureate degree holders in Wisconsin. I am very optimistic about the promise this holds for improving Wisconsin's economy, and I'm sure you'll be impressed with the reach of these plans.
Let me conclude by noting that as a collection, these initiatives go a long way toward enhancing the transfer experience for students, easing the bureaucratic and financial burden on families, and improving access to higher education in Wisconsin.
Thanks for listening.