MILWAUKEE – As part of approving a $5.59 billion annual operating budget, the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents today unanimously approved a 5.5% average tuition increase for resident undergraduates at the UW System’s four-year campuses.

The Board also approved a tuition freeze for the fourth straight year for the UW Colleges.

In recommending the tuition rates, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said the rates reflect the University’s “commitment to offer a high-quality UW education at a very reasonable, affordable price.”

“Setting that price is not an easy action to take, especially when so many families continue to feel the financial squeeze. We must balance our concerns about affordability with our obligation to uphold student access, the quality of UW academic programs, and the overall value of our students’ educational experience,” Reilly said.

With the 5.5% increase at the four-year UW schools, tuition at UW-Madison would rise by a total of $638 for the coming academic year. Rates at UW-Milwaukee will grow by $379 annually.  General tuition increases at the 11 other four-year UW campuses vary, ranging between $306 and $595.

Even with the tuition increases, UW tuition remains very competitive, Reilly told the Board. UW-Madison’s tuition will rank second lowest among its Big 10 peer universities. UW-Milwaukee tuition will ranks 12th out of 15 peer universities, and the average tuition at the other UW System four-year schools will rank 30th compared to tuition at 35 comparable regional universities.

Tuition at the UW Colleges will be nearly identical to that at Wisconsin Technical Colleges that offer comparable liberal arts transfer programs.

Reilly reminded Regents that, in the second year of a tough State budget, the UW System continues to implement more than $255 million in mandatory funding cuts and reallocations.  For the second straight year, UW System faculty and academic staff members will take eight days of unpaid furlough in 2010-11, equal to more than a 3% pay cut.

For the second straight year, students whose family income is at or below the state median of $60,000 will be “held harmless” from tuition increases, if they have documented need.

“More than ever, we must work to help people understand the real bottom-line impact of need-based aid…We need to do a better job of explaining the ‘net price’ of a college education,” Reilly said.

In the coming year, 21% of UW System revenue will come from state funds, 20% from tuition, and the remaining 59% from federal grants, private gifts and other funding.

In discussions about the proposed tuition increase, Student Regent Aaron Wingad said the proposed budget highlights the difficult balance Regents must find, between choosing to raise tuition or making cuts on campus. “This is a decision that really hits close to home for me. I am a first-generation college student and I have to find ways to pay for my own education,” Wingad said. Calling the proposed budget “the responsible way to move forward,” he said he would support it.

Student Regent Jessica Schwalenberg

Student Regent Jessica Schwalenberg

Student Regent Jessica Schwalenberg stressed the need to keep a long-range perspective. “If we get students here but cannot serve them well, it might keep them from coming back in the future, or change the view of education of a whole family, not just one person,” she said.

Regent Tom Loftus questioned whether the tuition freeze at the Colleges is producing the intended results, that is, increasing the number of students earning degrees.  Regent José Vásquez also wondered how long a tuition freeze can be sustained.

“Part of what we’re trying to do is provide more different kinds of choices for parents and students,” Reilly said. “We’ve got to find ways to keep a UW education affordable for a wide range of families. This is one element of that.”

Regent John Drew noted that while it’s difficult to look at a 5.5% tuition increase in the current stressed economy, he was pleased with the options in place to protect low-income families. “Some other time, I would have been at the back of the room holding a sign, but right now I don’t see an alternative to this budget so I’m supporting it,” Drew said.

Board discusses Growth Agenda efforts to create more jobs

As part of ongoing preparations of 2011-13 biennial budget to submit to the State, the Board heard a presentation on the findings of the Research to Jobs Implementation Committee, led by its chair, UW-Stout Chancellor Chuck Sorenson.

Some of the committee’s recommendations include: a week-long course to teach basic business and entrepreneurial skills, expanding beyond what’s currently offered at UW-Madison; a UW System website for posting start-up ideas and requests for collaborations, support, and resources; expansion of the Wisconsin Discovery Portal database, which allows the public to identify faculty and staff who have certain technical expertise; and encouraging the establishment and growth of emerging technology centers across the UW System.

Regent Mark Bradley, who served on the implementation committee, said the research-to-jobs focus is part of an overall shift in higher education. “Businesses are interested in where they can get some of the expertise that only exists on our campuses,” he said. “I think this is part of the essential use of resources for undergraduate and graduate education and our obligation to extend our expertise to businesses in the state.”

Regent David Walsh expressed concern that “this is a great idea in the wrong time,” noting the limited available resources to support such efforts. Regent Jeff Bartell agreed, but added that given the potential benefits highlighted in the report, “it would be terrible to have this report just sit on the shelf.”

President Reilly acknowledged the balancing act that is being called for.  “We know that the UW System will require significant new resources to preserve today’s levels of quality, access, and service. Those current obligations must be covered as we think about funding new ideas,” Reilly said.  “At the same time, we see the State’s growing needs, and we see an opportunity for the UW to address those needs in a meaningful way. We have ideas on the table that will grow the economy, create new jobs, push Wisconsin forward in the innovation economy, and provide a more educated citizenry that an information-age democracy must have.”

The challenge, he added, is how to address such needs and submit a budget proposal for a biennium in which the state and nation will likely still be climbing out of a very deep recession.

Regents call for “hold harmless” funding in next State budget

Turning to financial aid issues, the Regents voted to approve a resolution requesting that the statutory language of the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant-UW program be modified so that each student’s WHEG award will increase by at least the same amount as any dollar increase in undergraduate tuition. In effect, eligible low-income students would be held harmless from any tuition increases.  WHEG is the state’s primary need-based financial aid program for undergraduate students.

The change is intended to avoid a repeat of the situation last year, when the statutory link assuring that appropriation increases by the same percentage as tuition was suspended in 2009-10 and the WHEG program was flat-funded. That, along with an increase in the number of student applications, led to about 7,400 of the 33,000 WHEG eligible students not receiving grants due to insufficient funding.The resolution now will be submitted to the Higher Education Aids Board (HEAB), where it will be factored into its biennial budget request to be submitted to the Department of Administration in the fall.

UW-Milwaukee presentation

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago

UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago

The UW-Milwaukee is a growing institution, Chancellor Carlos Santiago told Regents, as he welcomed the Board to UW-Milwaukee. Leading a presentation on “Progress, Perceptions and Presidents: Taking the Initiative at UW-Milwaukee,” Santiago pointed to research expenditures that have grown by 150% since 2000, and expected to surpass $60 million this year.

He cited university’s 27% growth in enrollment since 2000, the institution’s added online capability, increasing diversity, climbing retention rates, the nearly doubled number of doctoral graduates in the past decade, and its expanding array of initiatives, such as the School of Freshwater Sciences.

“Our aspiration is to be a premier urban research university … and we have moved forward the agenda,” Santiago said.

Two former Regents addressed the Board.

“UWM is increasingly seen as a leader in the community and a catalyst for economic development,” said Michael Grebe, who served as Regent President from 1994-96, and is currently president of the Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee.

Sheldon Lubar, the Regent President from 1996-98, urged the Board to step up to play a larger role in turning around the city of Milwaukee in troubled economic times.  “UWM is the largest institution in this part of the state. As a public university, it is a force that can make an impact on the future of this area,” he said.

Education Committee considers new degree at five UW Colleges

In a session open to all Regents, the Education Committee held the first reading of the UW Colleges’ proposed Bachelor of Applied Arts and Sciences (B.A.A.S.) and the first reading of the Colleges’ revised mission.
The proposed B.A.A.S. degree-completion program is aligned with the UW Colleges’ mission of accessibility, affordability, and responsiveness to the needs of the Wisconsin students and communities, said Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin.

Martin noted that the proposed degree program also aligns with the UW System’s More Graduates for Wisconsin goals of increasing the educational attainment of adults in the state.  The B.A.A.S. degree targets place-bound, underserved adults living within driving distance of five UW Colleges campuses: UW-Baraboo/Sauk County; UW-Barron County; UW-Marshfield/Wood County; UW-Richland; and UW-Rock County. Each would partner with a UW four-year campus to provide some upper-level courses.

Along with addressing the Colleges’ goal to provide a single baccalaureate degree that meets local and individual needs, the revised mission statement reaffirms the Colleges’ commitment to prepare traditional-age and returning-adult students for the successful pursuit of the Associate of Arts and Science degree and baccalaureate degrees at transfer institutions, Wilson said.

UW-La Crosse Joe Gow and UW-Stout Chancellor Chuck Sorenson both spoke in support of the Colleges’ B.A.A.S. program.

Regent Tony Evers said the program provides a valuable opportunity to bring along a wider spectrum of students, some of whom might otherwise be left behind.

Commending the Colleges for “stepping outside the box” and looking at what is in the best interest of students and the state, Regent Danae Davis said the proposal reflects an important recognition of the different needs of placebound students.

Following this initial review of the mission, UW Colleges will convene a public hearing with Regent participation to discuss the revised mission. Both the B.A.A.S. degree and the new mission will come before the Board a second time, at which time the program authorization will be considered.

Audit Bureau reviews Wisconsin Partnership Program

Before a joint meeting of the Education Committee and the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee, the Legislative Audit Bureau presented the first required program review of the Wisconsin Partnership Program. The Audit Bureau found that both the UW School of Medicine and Public Health and the Medical College of Wisconsin “…generally complied with the requirements they established for awarding and monitoring their funding…” and that “most grantees met the objectives described in their proposals.”

Education Committee

Systemwide textbook policy recommended for approval

The Education Committee recommended approval of a Systemwide policy that addresses the rising cost of textbooks and works to maintain access and affordability for UW System students while ensuring the quality of the educational experience. The new policy takes into consideration several factors, including: the UW System governance structure; the primary role or responsibility of the faculty and instructional academic staff in selecting textbooks as an integral part of curriculum development; and market forces that involve bookstores and textbook publishers.

Inclusive Excellence strategies being implemented on campuses

In providing a status report on Inclusive Excellence, the UW System’s strategic initiative to address diversity, equity, and inclusion, Assistant Vice President of Academic Diversity and Development Vicki Washington reminded the Committee that the central premise is that unless institutions begin to more deliberately and intentionally integrate their diversity efforts into the core aspects of institutional life – including their academic priorities, leadership, decision-making, day-to-day operations, quality improvement initiatives, and campus culture – they will continue to meet with the same limited success as in previous initiatives.

Washington reported that members of the Inclusive Excellence Leadership Team have participated in 10 institutional visits around the UW System over the last year, as part of efforts to further the understanding and support for its goals on the campus level.  These visits are the primary mechanism for transitioning UW System’s work from the previous Plan 2008 to a greater and more targeted focus on outcome equity and excellence, she said.

The next stage of implementation is integrating the approach and strategies of Inclusive Excellence into all aspects of institutional planning.

Regent Danae Davis reiterated that it first must be figured out what works, and then efforts focused on implementing those measures.

“What we’re trying to do is move this work away from a handful of people…into the work of the whole campus,” said Senior Vice President Rebecca Martin. “That makes it everyone’s job.”

In other business, the Committee:

  • Approved the B.S. in Forensic Investigation at UW-Platteville;
  • Approved the M.S. in Freshwater Sciences and Technology at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved the Ph.D. in Sociology at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved the Ph.D. in Freshwater Sciences and Technology at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Approved revisions to UW-Green Bay’s Faculty Personnel Rules;
  • Approved the second reading of UW-Eau Claire’s revised mission statement;
  • Accepted the proffer made by the trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate in support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences, and music at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee for 2010-11;
  • Heard the first reading of UW-Oshkosh’s revised mission statement; and
  • Approved the annual Report on Promotions and Tenure; andReviewed the UW System’s plan for monitoring low-degree-producing programs.

Business, Finance, and Audit Committee
Human Resource System project on time and on budget

Associate Vice President for Learning and Information Technology Ed Meachen reported to the Business, Finance, and Audit Committee that the UW System Human Resources System (HRS) project currently is on time and on budget.

Regent David Walsh asked if there were any concerns about the project. “Have there been any worst case examples at other institutions? What’s keeping you awake at night?”

Meachen responded that the only challenges were those mentioned in his report: costs associated with difficulty hiring UW staff with the right technical expertise; some adjustments in timing that moved expenses into the 2011 fiscal year, and modifications to plans because of new needs. He emphasized those challenges are being addressed. “I have every expectation we will go live,” on time and on budget, he said.

The Committee approved the $35.9 million second year (Fiscal Year 2011) implementation budget to complete the first phase of the HRS project by June 2011.

Meachen told the Board that the first phase of the project, representing the bulk of core payroll and benefits functionality, should be completed by June 2011. The remaining phases will be completed in the first half of 2012.

In other business, the Committee:

Freda Harris

UW System Assoc VP Freda Harris

  • Heard a report from Associate Vice President Freda Harris regarding the UW System’s anticipated cost-to-continue budget request for FY 2011-13.  Allowable items to be included in the request are prescribed by the State Department of Administration and typically include changes in fringe benefit costs, utilities, salaries, debt service, and other items required to maintain the University’s current level of service.
  • Approved draft rules amending Chapter 19 of the Wisconsin Administrative Code so that the sick leave reinstatement period for unclassified staff who leave and then return to employment in the UW System is consistent with the current policy for classified staff. On approval by the full Board, the proposed amended rules will be submitted to the Legislative Council for review.
  • Heard a report by representatives of J.P. Morgan Asset Management, offering their perspectives on commercial real estate assets and the current state of the real estate market.
  • Approved a request by the UW School of Medicine and Public Health to use the principal of a $274,845 gift from the Norma Benninger Trust toward the funding of the second phase of the Wisconsin Institutes for Medical Research.
  • Heard a quarterly report of gifts, grants, and contracts awarded to UW System institutions in the nine month period July 1, 2009 through March 31, 2010.  Total gifts, grants, and contracts for the period were $1.258 billion, an increase of $180.2 million over the same period in the prior year.

Capital Planning and Budget Committee
Charter Street heating plant design approved

Committee members discussed plans for rebuilding the Charter Street Heating Plant at UW-Madison. The project will demolish portions of the existing coal-fired plant, construct several additions and employ new technology to burn biomass and natural gas. The rebuilding is expected to cost $245,136,600, paid for with program revenue borrowing.

Regent Falbo, who joined the committee for this agenda item, asked UW staff what it would cost to simply upgrade the plant to meet minimum environmental standards. Al Fish, UW-Madison associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and management, said the project’s price tag is $70-100 million more than the amount necessary to build a facility that would only burn natural gas.

UW System Associate Vice Chancellor David Miller said that the UW wants to invest in next-generation technology, constructing a clean-burning facility that can utilize a variety of available fuel sources. That flexibility, he added, will protect UW students from future volatility in the natural gas marketplace.

Fish explained that the program revenue-supported borrowing will have some impact on student fees, but that the State will also pick up a portion of the costs directly.

Regent Falbo said he opposed spending the additional money because of tight resources facing the System.

Fish explained that Gov. Jim Doyle directed the Department of Administration and the campus to plan the new facility with an eye toward long-term economic investment in Wisconsin’s biomass industry. Currently the plant operates with coal bought and shipped from West Virginia. The new facility would shift some new fuel purchasing to Wisconsin suppliers.

“We have seven suppliers who have indicated they have 700 tons of biomass available today at a price that’s competitive with natural gas,” said Fish.

Members of the committee approved the resolution unanimously.

UW-Milwaukee presents its Campus Master Plan

In other action, officials at UW-Milwaukee presented the Campus Master Plan, a forward-looking project that was last done in 1972.

The plan provides a framework for fulfilling campus needs and guide capital planning for the next 20 years, said Bob Greenstreet, dean of UWM’s College of Architecture and Urban Planning.

“It’s been a great exercise to rethink what we have on our base campus and investigate what to demolish, what to save and what to retrofit,” said Greenstreet.

Some of the highlights of the plan include an east-west corridor that runs under the existing Golda Meir Library and enhanced spaces between buildings, that better connects areas of the campus. It also addresses water and energy-savings and a transportation center that will front the existing UWM Union.

Some elements of the plan are close at hand, he noted. The Regents will vote Friday on releasing the bonding authority to begin construction of a $50 million addition to the WATER Institute on the harbor that will house part of UWM’s new School of Freshwater Sciences. Planning also continues on Innovation Park in Wauwatosa, which will house research from UWM College of Engineering, and on the downtown location for the new School of Public Health.

In other business, the Committee:

  • Approved two UW-Madison projects in the housing and dining services: the first project is the expansion of Gordon Commons, which includes authority to seek a waiver allowing a single prime contractor bid; the second project is the Lakeshore Residence Hall Development;
  • Approved a request of $4,280,000 in state Building Trust Funds to begin design for two projects at UW-Milwaukee: the Kenwood Integrated Research Complex Project and the Freshwater Sciences Initiative Research Building; both projects were enumerated by the legislature this spring as recommended by the Board of Regents;
  • Approved the purchase of a former elementary school to provide additional space at UW-Oshkosh;
  • Approved UW-River Falls’ George S. Fields South Fork Suites Addition Project;
  • Approved UW-Stevens Point’s Neale Residence Hall Renovation Project; and
  • Approved UW System’s request for four All Agency Maintenance and Repair Projects at three UW System institutions; the largest project implements energy conservation opportunities in five high-rise academic buildings at UW-Milwaukee.

Photo Credit: Brian Slawson and Alan Magayne-Roshak

The Board of Regents will resume its June 2010 meeting on Friday, June 11 at 9 a.m. at the UW-Milwaukee Union

Related: June 11 (day 2) news summary