UW System Board of Regents meeting
News Summary

The University of Wisconsin System will need to reduce enrollments or increase tuition if state funding does not improve in the future.

That was the message the UW System Board of Regents heard Thursday (Aug. 22) as it unanimously approved a 2003-05 biennial budget proposal that acknowledges the state’s grim economic picture and does not request any new state funding but maintains current levels.

“I feel strongly that we have come to the end of our capacity to maintain quality with growing enrollments and declining base resources,” UW System President Katharine Lyall told the board. “Over the past decade, we have absorbed almost $100 million in base cuts while continuing to admit more students in response to enrollment pressures. We have now ‘hit the wall.’ We cannot continue this trend.”

The board’s budget request also calls for several changes to state law that would give the regents more flexibility in managing the university. These changes include allowing the UW System to keep the interest earned from tuition revenue and giving the regents full authority to set tuition rates.

The regents also approved a funding request for future consideration by state lawmakers to maintain educational quality and for several collaborative projects to improve the Wisconsin economy and address teacher and nursing shortages.

Several regents described the budget request as “prudent” and “responsible.”

“I hope the taxpayers appreciate our efforts here,” said Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville. He compared the roughly $5,000 in support the state provides for each UW student with the estimated $25,000 cost of incarcerating each inmate per year in a Wisconsin prison. “Taxpayers are certainly getting a high level of quality for their investment,” Axtell added.

Regents also approved a capital budget request – separate from the university’s operating budget proposal – which requests $143 million in state-supported bonding for a number of major construction projects on UW campuses. The university is providing $203 million from gift and grant funds and program revenue to offset the state share. This request is $80 million less than the amount of state bonding requested for major projects in 2001-03.

Full remarks from meeting
PDF version of budget presentation pdf
News release from Aug. 19