MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System will pursue several key issues as part of its federal agenda for the upcoming congressional session, the Board of Regents heard Thursday.

Top priorities for 2017 will include federal financial aid for students, relief from burdensome regulations, and sustained funding for research and development.

“Federal support helps all campuses attract and retain promising students, faculty and staff, and helps them contribute to Wisconsin’s economy,” said UW System President Ray Cross. “The federal funds that support research on UW campuses drive innovation and growth in Wisconsin businesses.”

Two-thirds of all UW System students receive some form of financial aid, with 72 percent of that aid coming from federal sources in 2015-16, according to Kris Andrews, UW System’s Vice President for Federal Relations. Among its recommendations, UW System is calling for strengthening and sustaining Pell Grant funding. In 2015-16, the Pell Grant program provided $141 million to almost 37,000 Wisconsin resident undergraduates, with an average grant of $3,817.

Further, UW System recommends extending the federal Perkins Loan program, which is slated to expire in September 2017, barring congressional action. The Perkins program, which served 13,672 UW System students last year with $25.4 million in loans, provides low-interest loans to students based on financial need.

In the area of regulatory reform, the UW System strongly recommends streamlining and consolidating federal reporting and regulatory requirements related to higher education. While oversight of taxpayer funding must continue, burdensome or excessive regulations impose significant compliance costs on colleges and universities nationwide, Andrews said.

UW System is also recommending continued financial support to research and development efforts, including federal funding to the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and U.S. Department of Energy.

Andrews noted that a number of other priorities on the federal agenda – including tax reform, healthcare reform, defense spending, the federal budget and national debt levels – could impact higher education interests.

Cross announces Business Council membership

President Ray Cross on Thursday named the inaugural membership of a new UW System Business Council to include key business and industry leaders from around the state, with diverse backgrounds, expertise and experience. The Council will advise the UW System about how the University can be strategic and collaborate with the business community to better meet the long-term challenges and issues facing Wisconsin.

The Council, which has about two dozen members, will have its first meeting in the near future.

Arizona State president urges new way of thinking for universities

To keep pace with the rapidly evolving economy, institutions of higher education must adapt and be innovative in the scale, speed, and nature of what they do, according to Arizona State University President Michael Crow.

“All things of the past are simple compared to what lies ahead,” said Crow, in a guest presentation before the UW System Board.

Crow, co-author of the 2015 book, “Designing the new American University,” said many American universities live by an outdated model that no longer accomplishes or serves their purposes. To meet changing demand, different kinds of educational institutions are emerging, he said.

Since Crow became the ASU president in 2002, the university has nearly quadrupled research expenditures, completed a major infrastructure expansion, and was named the nation’s most innovative school by U.S. News & World Report in 2015 and 2016.

Central to ASU’s revamped identity is a focus on providing access to a much broader student population, with inclusion trumping exclusion in admissions. The success of those students is then the single most important measure of the university’s overall success, Crow said. Other key priorities in the ASU mission are advancing research and discovery as a public value, and assuming responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.

“The notion of this charter, this public trust and the operation of the university as public enterprise changes the mindset,” Crow said.

California biotech leader showcases consortium possibilities

Collaboration can accelerate and amplify innovative possibilities, according to the leader of a major biotechnology enterprise in California.

Susan Baxter, executive director of the California State University Program for Education and Research in Biotechnology (CSUPERB), shared with the Board her experience in focusing the power of an academic consortium on a research topic of common interest.

Cultivating “communities of practice” helps to provide faculty support, incubate new programs and ideas, and bring together faculty and students across disciplines while also moving people from a shared idea to shared action, she said.

Baxter noted that campuses benefit by building their research capacity, involving more students in research, attracting external funding opportunities, and sustaining connections with their communities.

“The return on investment can’t be the whole story,” Baxter said. “It needs to be more about the faculty, student, and community impacts that accrue .. and how that helps with challenges and provides contact with expertise.”

Presidents’ reports

In his report to the Board of Regents Thursday, UW System President Ray Cross called the Governor’s announced biennial budget last month “the first investment the UW System has received in more than a decade.” Cross added, “We appreciate this recognition of the critical role we play in strengthening Wisconsin’s economy and workforce.”

Cross also pointed to five key focus areas where the Governor’s budget connected directly with the UW System’s 2020FWD strategic plan: affordability, accountability, employee compensation, capital infrastructure, and flexibilities.

“We appreciate the support we have received from the Governor and legislators on both sides of the aisle,” Cross said. “We look forward to working with our partners in state government over the next few months to ensure this budget continues to reflect our common goals.”

Reporting on News from Around the UW System, Cross told Regents that UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Sleep and Consciousness research shows that our brain resets during sleep, creating room for more growth and learning the next day. This four-year project received worldwide media attention.

In her regular report, Board President Regina Millner updated Regents on the latest meeting of the Task Force on Campus Climate, noting that Dr. Mitchell Chang, a professor of Higher Education and Organizational Change, and Asian American Studies, at University of California, Los Angeles, had led a presentation on the educational value of campus diversity efforts.

Millner also extended the Board’s congratulations on the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin public broadcasting. Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television now reach more than 446,000 listeners and 472,000 viewers each week, with an even broader audience online.

In other action, the Regents:

  • Approved the institutional post-tenure review policies submitted by the respective chancellors of three institutions: UW-Extension, UW-Parkside, and UW-Stout.


The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on April 6-7, 2017, at UW-Platteville