Accountability report highlights progress, challenges
The University of Wisconsin System’s latest accountability
report outlines progress the university has made over the past year
in serving students and the state but also highlights challenges
related to decreased state funding.
“This report shows the tradeoffs
our campuses are making as budgets are cut. But many of the
ways in which the current budget crisis will impact our students
have not yet been felt on our campuses.”
President Katharine C. Lyall
Similar to the way corporations report to their stockholders, the
UW System report, titled "Achieving
Excellence," outlines the way the university holds itself
accountable annually to students, alumni and Wisconsin citizens.
UW System President Katharine C. Lyall praised UW System faculty
and staff for their skillful management of university operations
during a period of deep budget reductions. However, she stressed
that effects from the most recent state cuts of $250 million to
the university’s budget for 2003-05 will not be reflected
until next year’s accountability report—and beyond.
“While our performance has improved over last year, I am
concerned about the future,” Lyall said. “This report
shows the tradeoffs our campuses are making as budgets are cut.
But many of the ways in which the current budget crisis will impact
our students have not yet been felt on our campuses.”
According to Lyall, the accountability report responds to multiple
stakeholders and outlines the tradeoffs the UW System is making
to accommodate a difficult fiscal environment.
For example, she noted that the university’s emphasis on
preserving access for traditional-age students has limited enrollment
for non-traditional students. She added that campuses protected
student instruction from the biggest cuts this academic year, which
meant reducing academic support positions, including academic advisors.
“In tight financial times, the university must make choices
that balance competing interests fairly while preserving our long-term
capacity to meet our public purpose,” Lyall said.
Overall, the UW System met or exceeded 14 of 20 targets in 2003-04,
according to the accountability report. These include:
- increasing graduation and retention rates, which are now at
the highest levels ever in the UW System;
- enrolling more students in precollege programs and distance
- fostering critical thinking skills;
- providing opportunities for students to work on research with
faculty outside the classroom; and
- having students exceed state and national averages on exams
for graduate school and professional fields, like accounting.
Other performance measures that were met or exceeded, the report
- the number of credits students attempt to complete their degrees;
- providing student learning experiences outside the classroom;
- preparing students to live in a diverse world;
- increasing faculty use of technology in the classroom;
- student and faculty satisfaction with technology resources;
- stewardship of resources, especially keeping administrative
costs low, developing more academic collaborations and realizing
cost savings through shared technology agreements; and
- committing appropriate resources for professional development.
The report outlines mixed results on four measures: closing the
access gap for students of color; academic advising; student volunteering
and voting participation; and maintenance backlogs in classrooms
Two other measures—access for non-traditional students and
study abroad experiences—still leave room for improvement.
“The areas where we are falling short of our goals—especially
in access for non-traditional students, advising, building maintenance,
and study abroad—present challenges that are exacerbated by
our current budget situation,” Lyall said.
The UW System was one of the first state university systems to
issue a public accountability report when it began doing so in 1993.
Its report differs from other state-level accountability efforts
by combining measures that examine the overall university environment
and how it fosters learning and success with traditional indicators
such as access, retention, graduation, technology, and resource
Prepared by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research,
the report is available online at http://www.uwsa.edu/opar/.
The report also contains 15 institution-specific accountability
President Lyall's remarks introducing the accountability report