Wisconsin Idea Partnership

Statement to Joint Finance Committee

April 8, 2011

Statement to Joint Finance Committee by Vicki Hajewski, UW-Superior Vice Chancellor for Campus Life

Good morning.

My name is Vicki Hajewski. †I am the Vice Chancellor for Campus Life for the University of Wisconsin-Superior. †I am pleased to welcome you to Superior and to the UW-Superior campus.

Iím sure I speak for many people of our city and our region when I say that we appreciate the Joint Finance Committee holding a hearing in northwestern Wisconsin. †We may be distant from Madison, but our workers, businesses and schools are important to the economy of our state, and we take a keen interest in the governance of our state.

Like the people who live in northwestern Wisconsin, those of us at UW-Superior donít spend a lot of time talking about what we do. †We just do it.† But permit me to take a few moments to talk about what UW-Superior means to our city and our region.

UW-Superior is the only public comprehensive university north of State Highway 29. †We engage students in an education that prepares them to succeed in the global economy.†

Many of our students are older adults returning to school to prepare for new careers. †Many use our Distance Learning Center to complete degrees from home without leaving their families and jobs.

Our faculty members work with these students while also producing research and performance work that earns regional and national recognition.

Our campus also is the site of Continuing Education and Extension centers that offer professional development programs; assist small businesses; and support economic development and local government.

From a financial standpoint, UW-Superior each year provides an estimated $42.2 million in spending and income for Superior and Douglas County. †However, that amount will decline because our employees will have $3.2 million less to spend in our community over the next biennium as a result of their increased contributions for health insurance and retirement benefits.

Like our colleagues throughout the UW System, we have worked over the years to maintain the quality of the education and services we provide in the face of a steady decline in state funding.

The budget proposed by Governor Scott Walker cuts another $250 million from the UW System plus another $90 million in funding to reflect higher employee contributions to retirement and health insurance benefits. †At UW-Superior, we will be identifying more than $3 million to cut from our budget for the next biennium.

To handle this funding cut, the governorís proposed budget endorses the New Badger Partnership. †This plan allows increased management flexibilities only for UW-Madison, and separates that campus from the rest of the UW System.

But letís be clear. †The governorís proposed budget cut will affect every UW campus, every student and every employee. †All the campuses in our state deserve to have the tools needed to effectively manage this cut.

Thatís why we at UW-Superior strongly urge you to support the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, proposed by the UW System Board of Regents.

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership provides the new tools that all 26 UW campuses need to meet this budget challenge.

These tools include new flexibilities in:

  • budgeting
  • tuition
  • human resources
  • capital projects
  • financial management
  • and procurement

Granting these flexibilities to UW campuses will enable us to work smarter and save money, just as we teach our business students to do.

For instance, giving us more flexibility in budgeting would enable UW-Superior to take money saved in one area, such as utilities or fringe benefits, and use that money to fund core academic operations.†

Weíve been comparing the budgeting process to a family sitting around the dining room table looking at the family budget. †If their monthly grocery bill is higher than expected, they might try to compensate by cutting back on gasoline and transportation. †Under the current state system, no matter how well our UW chancellors manage their gas spending, they arenít allowed to use that money to buy groceries. †That just doesnít make sense in todayís world.

With the proposed flexibilities to manage our classified hiring process, UW-Superior could save weeks of employee time each year. †That would result in an estimated annual savings of $50,000.

Look at spending for capital projects. †UW-Superior has had more than $100 million worth of construction and renovation projects in recent years. †Using flexibilities proposed in the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, we could have saved more than $2 million.

Right now we are planning a $15.2 million residence hall renovation. †This project will be funded entirely by student fees. Using the flexibilities proposed in the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, we would save our students more than $300,000.

Giving us flexibility in procurement would allow us to do more purchasing locally and use consortia purchasing power. We estimate that would save us $550,000 a year.

Now, youíre no doubt aware of reports of disagreements in the UW System about which is the best option.† Language already exists in the UW Statutes for the Board of Regents to delegate these flexibilities to the campuses.† UW System President Kevin Reilly is assembling a task force to analyze and examine the role of UW System Administration.†

As you examine the Wisconsin Idea Partnership, you can see it is a practical, workable solution.

Itís simple. †It requires changes to existing state law rather than creating a radical and hasty restructuring.

Itís reasonable. †It seeks the same functional benefits offered to UW-Madison that are included in the governorís budget proposal.

Itís equitable. †It offers those same benefits to all the campuses and students.

And itís accountable. †Under one system, Wisconsin taxpayers and legislators can hold all UW institutions to the same high standards and compare performance using standardized measures.

It is important to remember that the UW System has worked well for more than 40 years. †It has an outstanding reputation as one of the most efficient, accountable, and productive higher education systems in the nation.†

Splitting UW-Madison from the UW System will lead to duplication and competition, and it will hurt our reputation. †It will be an expensive, complicated process.†

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership will create an even stronger, unified system that can tackle the challenges of the twenty-first century.

Please support the Wisconsin Idea Partnership. †Give the UW System the tools to work even more efficiently so it can continue to make its critical contributions to our stateís economy and to its future.