MADISON – Cuts in state support to the University of Wisconsin System proposed in Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget will affect students, faculty, staff and communities all across the state, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall said Wednesday.
“These cuts are unprecedented in their magnitude,” Lyall said. “They will affect everything we dofrom administration, to research, to instruction, to community service. Everything is on the table. This is a substantial challenge for us and our students.”
Doyle’s budget calls for a $250 million reduction to the UW System in the 2003-05 biennial budget. The reduction is equivalent to 38 percent of the total cuts in state spending included in the governor’s budget, even though the UW System accounts for just 9 percent of the state budget, Lyall said.
“We are paying our fair share and more,” Lyall said. “This pattern of declining state support cannot continue or we will not have the kind of university system we need for the future of this state.”
The governor’s budget allows for the cuts to be partially offset through increases in tuition. The proposed offset, if approved by the Legislature, would equal $50 million in 2003-04 and $100 million in 2004-05, but these additional revenues would still leave the UW System with a $100 million budget cut.
“Without the tuition increases the governor proposed, we would have to dramatically downsize the university,” Lyall said. “We are very mindful that tuition increases are not anyone’s first choice. But we need to balance access, affordability and quality.”
The governor’s recommendation would allow the Board of Regents to raise tuition for resident undergraduates up to $250 per semester in 2003-04 and 2004-05 at most of the UW System’s campuses. The budget would allow for tuition increases of $350 per semester in each of those years for resident undergraduates at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee.
Even with the tuition increases, UW campuses would still rank below the midpoint of tuition rates of their peer institutions. For example, UW-Madison would rank 7th out of 9 public Big Ten universities; UW-Milwaukee would rank 12th out of 15 comparable urban universities; and the comprehensive campuses would rank 31st out of 35 similar institutions.
“We appreciate the governor’s proposal on tuition, which will help mitigate these cuts,” Board of Regents President Guy Gottschalk said Wednesday. “We especially appreciate his addition of financial aid to help offset tuition hikes for our less fortunate students.”
The governor’s budget includes $23.6 million in funding for financial aid increases for UW-Wisconsin Higher Education Grants, Lawton grants, and the Advanced Opportunity Program. The additional financial aid would come from UW System auxiliary reserves, which Lyall said was important to make financial aid dollars available. She cautioned, however, that using the reserve funds would be viable only as a one-time solution.
Lyall said that adjusting enrollment is still considered the last option for managing cuts included in the 2003-05 state budget. She stressed that any reductions necessary due to limited resources would likely be made in Fall 2004 and beyond.
To better understand how cuts would impact local campuses and communities, Lyall announced that she and members of the Board of Regents will participate in listening sessions on several UW campuses during March and April. Times and dates are still being determined.
“I hope we hear from people with hopes and expectations of being served by the UW System,” Lyall said. “I hope we hear from everybody.”
While noting that the university must be part of the solution to Wisconsin’s budget deficit, Lyall and Gottschalk said the UW System must be preserved in the long-term so it can continue to effectively serve students and the state.
“The hemorrhaging of state support for higher education must end with the governor’s budget,” Gottschalk said. “If the Legislature accepts his cuts but denies tuition offsets, they will set us on a path to fiscal emergency and break a trust with Wisconsin citizens that has endured for more than 150 years.”