MILWAUKEE – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents took one more step toward the creation of an updated set of policies regarding its relationships with student lenders Thursday. The Board’s Business, Finance and Audit Committee approved a resolution calling for the creation of the Policy on Institutional and Employee Relationships with Educational Loan Lenders with a unanimous vote.

Julie Gordon, UW System director of operations, review and audit, presented the policy to committee members. Included in the new policy are measures that seek to eliminate conflicts of interest between UW System financial aid employees and private educational lenders and create an equitable set of options for students seeking loans from these firms.

“The policy you have before you, we believe, achieves these goals,” she said.

If approved by the full board, the policy would prohibit UW System institutions from soliciting or accepting fees, revenue sharing or material benefits from private lenders in exchange for institutional promotion of the company’s services. In addition, UW System institutions creating so-called preferred lender lists would be required to provide a minimum of three lenders and include information about how each firm was selected.

This policy, according to Gordon, is consistent with the proposed student loan Sunshine Act proposed by the US Department of Education, the code of conduct released by the National Association of the Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA) and the code of conduct released by the New York Attorney General.

“I think we’re really ahead of the curve here,” said Regent Brent Smith of La Crosse, noting how the proposed UW System policy is, in some cases, more restrictive than the wide-reaching initiatives offered by others.

Regent Charles Pruitt of Shorewood emphasized that the financial aid workers on the university’s campuses are committed to serving the best interests of students and their families.

“This is an important, necessary thing to be transparent,” he said. “I think the fact that we’re sort of leading the way is something we can take pride in.”

The proposed policy will go before the full board Friday for consideration.

UW-Milwaukee continues to undertake plans for physical and academic expansion

UW–Milwaukee Chancellor Carlos Santiago shared the institution’s plans for breaking out of its landlocked campus with the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents at the Regents’ June meeting at UW-Milwaukee Thursday.

Building UW-Milwaukee’s research capacity is vital to power development and diversify the economic base both in the Milwaukee region and in the state, Santiago told the Regents. He outlined three off-campus expansions that would allow UW-Milwaukee to grow its research efforts. He emphasized that the projects are still in the planning stages, with no dollars committed and no faculty hired.

One project would involve developing a science and engineering “innovation campus” on county-owned grounds in Wauwatosa near the Medical College of Wisconsin. UW-Milwaukee is discussing with the county the acquisition of 82 acres – 50 of which are available for development. Noting the proximity to medical research taking place at the Medical College, Santiago said UW-Milwaukee’s scientists and engineers could complement and add value to the biomedical research already being done in the area.

Another planned project would involve expanding into a downtown academic health center in partnership with Aurora Sinai Medical Center. This campus would be located on property the hospital already owns.

“We took the mandate from you very seriously,” Santiago said of the Regents’ approval of continued planning for a Milwaukee-based School of Public Health at their December 2006 meeting.

UW-Milwaukee’s College of Nursing, College of Health Sciences and School of Social Welfare could become part of such a campus, Santiago said, noting that room is available for expansion in the nearby Pabst City complex.

Continuing to develop the “harbor campus” around UW-Milwaukee’s Great Lakes WATER Institute, which does vital freshwater research, is a third approach to expanding the campus beyond its current limits. Santiago noted that all three expansion areas are within three to eight miles of the main campus.

Santiago said the campus is also working closely with the Milwaukee 7, a coalition of regional officials working on economic development, and is aligning its expansion plans to support M7’s goals. While the expansion will be costly, UW-Milwaukee is committed to developing the private-public partnerships that will make it viable, he said.

The cost of doing nothing is high, Santiago emphasized.

“We cannot sit still. This is too important a project for the future of the region.”

Santiago also updated the Regents on UW-Milwaukee’s $300 million research growth plan, noting that the campus has already raised $94 million of its $100 million commitment through a capital campaign. In addition, Santiago summarized several completed or nearly completed projects that have relieved some of the residential housing pressure on the central campus. Currently, UW-Milwaukee, with 28,000 students on 94 acres, is the most “compressed” of the UW System campuses, Santiago said, with 288 students per acre, compared to an average of 32 per acre for the rest of the UW System.

— Kathy Quirk

View Chancellor Santiago's presentation pdf

National expert provides analysis of Wisconsin’s educational needs

Improving the state’s economy, providing educational access for Wisconsin’s aging and diversifying population, and revitalizing Milwaukee should be top priorities for the UW System as it executes its Growth Agenda, said Dennis Jones, president of the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, a nonprofit that provides data for higher education policy decisions.

Those issues may sound as though they are outside the scope of the university system, but the UW’s agenda is dependent upon the public agenda for success, said Jones.

Because there are not enough jobs for them, many people who obtain a degree in Wisconsin work in other states, keeping the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree here below the national average. Per-capita income in the state also is less than the national average.

“The biggest problem in Wisconsin is creating jobs for people graduating with a bachelor’s degree,” Jones said.

Wisconsin has many other economic obstacles to overcome that the System could play a role in addressing, he said.

“If you look at the states that have high incomes and high educational attainment, they are the ones that have made the transition to knowledge-based economies with numerous information and biomedical-based industries,” Jones said. “These are not the industries that made Milwaukee famous. Wisconsin is not there yet.”

The UW System also should prepare for the state’s future economic needs by shifting its services to accommodate a projected change in the state’s demographics. The population is not expected to grow, particularly in Milwaukee, and the numbers of youth will be much more racially diverse.

Adult continuing education and access to higher education for minorities will to be very important to the state in the next decade, Jones added.

In the area of research, the UW System ranks high, he said, turning out many patents and doctoral graduates, but it isn’t translating into enough commercial enterprise.

“It’s a miserable venture capital environment,” he said. “The question is how do you connect the capacity you have built in research with the economy of the state?”

The next step for the Board of Regents, Jones said, would be to create and build consensus around a short list of state priorities that the UW System should address. He also advised devising a mechanism to keep the focus on the priorities for an extended period of time, identify measures that allow monitoring progress in achieving the goals, and to provide incentives for pursuing them.

— Laura L. Hunt

View Dennis Jones' presentation: "Higher Education And The Future Of Wisconsin" pdf

Regents outline future for diversity programs throughout UW System

While some of the goals of Plan 2008 – the UW System’s ten-year initiative to increase diversity throughout the institution – have seen some success, the university still has work to do to realize the program’s desired outcomes. Regents heard an update Thursday on Plan 2008 from Rebecca Martin, UW System senior vice president for academic affairs, and Vicki Washington, the university’s interim assistant vice president for academic diversity and development.

Washington’s presentation served as an overview of the steps the UW System has taken to achieve the goals within Plan 2008, and the varying levels of success the university has experienced implementing these steps. The report showed that the number and percent of students of color in the UW System have increased, with Washington citing better recruitment practices at system campuses for this outcome. Washington’s report also highlighted the successes of pre-college programs designed to put Wisconsin students “in the pipeline” for academic success and on a path to higher education, citing UW-Green Bay’s Phuture Phoenix program as an example.

The lower retention rates among students of color, however, serves as cause for concern as the UW System looks to future diversity-related initiatives, Washington said. Her report showed that, while 80 percent of white students returned to the same UW System institution for a second year, this was only true of 72 percent of students of color. The graduation rates between these two groups provided an even starker contrast, with 60 percent of white students graduating within six years, compared to only 44 percent of students of color. One reason for this disparity, Washington said, was the greater need for financial aid among students of color, and that the cost of higher education as a percentage of household income has increased considerably over the last decades.

“It’s apparent that we still have work to do to achieve more progress with better results,” she said.

Still, Washington noted that, overall, bachelors degrees for students of color have increased in both number and percentage since the implementation of Plan 2008, as had the number of employees from racial minority groups, another goal of the initiative. This latter item, Washington said, aids significantly in improving campus climate for students of color.

Martin was quick to call diversity the most important matter to the state and to the country, and that the challenges to achieving it at all levels will only become greater. As a result, she said, the UW System cannot simply accept the status quo when it comes to its diversity efforts. The university should now work to establish a strategic framework for integrating diversity into the core of how the UW System operates, she said.

“I don’t think it’s useful for us to beat ourselves up about what hasn’t been working,” she said, encouraging Regents to instead reflect on what has been accomplished over the last nine years and what goals still have yet to be achieved.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly emphasized the need for greater access to higher education among students of color, something that has been partially achieved through pre-college programs.

“We need to promise access to high-quality public education and we need to make good on that promise,” he said, adding that the university, after achieving greater access for students of color, need to work to ensure these students are successful.

Martin said her department, along with the university’s provosts and chancellors, will continue to examine the most recent Plan 2008 report to determine the appropriate next steps.

“We must not allow ourselves to be complacent, or to decide that this work is too hard or that we don’t have the necessary resources,” Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee said. “It is our hope that as we develop a framework for diversity going forward, we will also find ways to stay accountable,” she added later, using the Equity Scorecard as an example of an exemplary program.

The Board of Regents will hear a final report on Plan 2008 at its next June meeting.

View a progress report on Plan 2008 pdf

Joint Committee of Physical Planning and Funding / Business Finance, and Audit Committee

Sherwood Wilson, UW-Milwaukee vice chancellor of administration and finance, urged members of the two committees to “seize the opportunity” to address UWM’s future needs by authorizing development of a master plan for its growth.

“Today we are a major status university in transition,” he said, “and we are an institution that has never been planned.”

Wilson noted that even when UWM was established as a commuter college in the late 1950s, decision makers knew there would be growth limitations, such as too little parking and no space for a developing athletics program, at its current Eastside location.

“We have some acute deficiencies here,” he said. “All of these issues are the same ones that we were facing from the beginning.”

And there are new ones.

Despite having the largest enrollment of any UW System campus, UWM continues to be the densest campus, both in Wisconsin and among its peer institutions around the country.

The campus has the only NCAA Division I baseball program in the UW System, and yet the Panthers play in a community field that doesn’t have a scoreboard, making it ineligible to host tournaments.

It has dormitory rooms for only 9 percent of its students.

With UWM Chancellor Carlos Santiago’s vision of expanding the campus to include other sites around Milwaukee, Wilson said the time was right to try to correct the problems.

The campus currently has potential donors of land for both an athletics complex and a downtown clinical campus next to Aurora Sinai Medical Center.

“We have to have a plan to address these needs. Otherwise, we’re in reactive mode and reactive mode is where we were in 1957.”

— Laura L. Hunt

Education Committee

UW-Milwaukee Provost Rita Cheng updated the Board of Regents Education Committee on the campus’s dual missions of research and access at the committee’s Thursday afternoon meeting.

Since UW-Milwaukee’s first commencement 50 years ago, Cheng said, the campus has grown to grant 4,000 degrees annually and include more than 150,000 alumni.

The campus’s research is critical to economic growth in the Milwaukee region, she noted, helping provide both an educated workforce and assistance to the local economic community with technology.

Cheng presented just a few examples of how the UW-Milwaukee’s research efforts impact the local community. Among those cited: Pradeep Rohatgi, distinguished professor of materials engineering, works with composite materials and is helping the local foundry industry remain globally competitive. DeAnn Huinker, professor of education and director of the Center for Mathematics and Science Education Research, is leading a team working on a $20 million National Science Foundation grant in mathematics education aiming to improve the way mathematics is taught in local schools; and Carol Hirschmugl, associate professor of physics, is doing basic biophysics research tracking what happens to molecules when they meet the surface of a particular material or move around in a living cell

Cheng added that UW-Milwaukee’s Research Grant Initiative (RGI) is providing seed money to help university researchers take important steps to initiate or continue work in their fields.

At the same time, the campus’s Access to Success program is helping more students attend and succeed in college, fulfilling the second part of the university’s mission, Cheng said. The Access to Success program is showing promising results in retaining and recruiting students, she said. Admissions of minority students are up significantly from fall 2006 to fall 2007 – 13 percent for Southeast Asian students; 31 percent for American Indians; 42 percent for Latina/os and 46 percent for African Americans.

As with research, Cheng cited examples – a student with a low ACT score coming in as a freshman who attained a 3.0+ GPA by her sophomore year; the McNair Summer Scholars program which encourages promising minority student to begin graduate level work; and the Sloan Foundation grant, which will use hybrid courses to give better access to working adults.

Regent Thomas Loftus, who attended UW-Milwaukee’s spring commencement, said he could feel the campus’s energy at that event.

“It’s a school on the move. You could just feel it there,” he said.

“I think what you are providing in terms of access is much more powerful than what that word usually includes,” added Regent Judith Crain.

Regent Michael Spector had a word of caution about the emphasis on education as an engine of economic development. While economic development is vitally important, he said, he encouraged Regents and the university to not forget to communicate about the importance of a liberal education. He cited his own experiences in auditing courses at UW-Milwaukee which exposed him to faculty members who impressively conveyed their passion for literature.

Crain agreed that students and faculty shouldn’t be just thinking about education in terms of money and state development – though these are important.

“We need to think about who we are as a community and how we live and how we understand the past and the future,” she said.

The Education Committee also reviewed an updated mission statement for the UW-Green Bay campus. This latest version includes calls for “strong interdisciplinary, problem-focused liberal education that integrates disciplinary and professional programs appropriate to a comprehensive institution,” and follows with eight specific campus mandates.

In other business, the Education Committee approved and sent to the Regents for consent:

  • a Bachelor of Applied Health Science Degree at UW-Parkside (view presentation pdf )
  • a B.S. in Computer Engineering at UW-Milwaukee (view presentation pdf )
  • a Ph.D. in Information Studies at UW-Milwaukee (view presentation pdf )
  • the appointment of Dr. Timothy Ehlinger as a UW System representative to the Natural Areas Preservation Council
  • tenure designations and other changes of status for select UW System faculty and staff

— Kathy Quirk

View Rita Cheng's presentation on UWM's dual mission of research and access pdf

Business, Finance and Audit Committe

More than 105,000 UW System students receive financial aid each year, for a total of over $800 million dollars, the Business, Finance and Audit Committee learned in its individual meeting. Committee members heard from Sharon Wilhelm, UW System interim associate vice president for policy analysis and research, about numerous aspects of student financial aid throughout the university.

Wilhelm discussed how Pell Grants, a federal, need-based financial aid program, are covering a decreasing percentage of undergraduate tuition and fees, and talked about growing gap between the average cost of college attendance and the amount of need-based financial aid students receive.

“Federal loan limits have not increased over time to keep up with tuition increases,” she said. “Students and families have to turn to alternative loans to supplement federal borrowing.”

The Business, Finance and Audit Committee also heard an update on the UW System’s biennial operating budget from Freda Harris, UW System associate vice president for budget and planning. Harris shared that most of the provisions in Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed university budget remained in tact after consideration in the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee, including all Growth Agenda-related items. The Joint Finance Committee did, however, vote to not increase the maximum award for the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant, and removed domestic partner benefits for all state employees from the university’s budget.

Next, the budget will go before the full state Senate, followed by the full Assembly, a conference committee and, finally, to the desk of Gov. Doyle.

“There’s a lot of work that needs to be done,” Harris said, “but so far things are pretty good.”

In other business, the Business, Finance and Audit Committee approved amended bylaws of the University of Wisconsin Medical Foundation.

View presentation on financial aid pdf

Physical Planning and Funding Committee

The Physical Planning and Funding Committee approved the balance of a $2.5 million project to upgrade wiring in one area of the UW-Madison campus to accommodate its 21st Century Telecommunications Project, which will allow high-speed computing across a wide area.

Al Fish

Al Fish

Cisco Corp. will match the state funding to use toward the project, said Al Fish, UW-Madison associate vice chancellor for facilities planning and management. Although there is some specialized Cisco equipment involved in the project, it is only a small amount, he said. Cisco’s matching offer provides the most cost-effective way for the university to procure the wiring.

It is part of a “gigantic” long-term goal of installing a high-capacity wiring network campuswide.

In other business, the committee approved the following projects:

  • UW-Madison’s design and construction of the East Campus Utility Improvements Project, and the transfer of funds to the University Square Redevelopment project
  • UW-Madison’s design and construction of the Arts Relocation Project and adjustments to the project budget
  • the construction of all agency maintenance and repair projects throughout the UW System
  • funding for a consolidated utilities infrastructure that will serve the new Rothwell Student Center at UW-Superior as well as its library renovation and Wessman Arena addition projects

— Laura L. Hunt


Photos: Peter Jakubowski and Alan Magayne-Roshak

The Board of Regents will resume its June meeting on Friday, June 8, at 9 a.m. in the Wisconsin Room of the UW-Milwaukee Union.

Related: Read June 8 (day 2) news summary