MADISON-The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents on Friday encouraged the state of Wisconsin to support programs that would assist veterans and students from lower-income backgrounds as part of the state’s 2007-09 biennial budget.
The Board approved resolutions Friday in support of a proposed Hold Harmless Tuition Grant and the Veterans’ Tuition Grant. Funding for both grant programs is expected to be included in the 2007-09 budget request of the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), but the programs would directly impact UW students.
“The UW’s ‘Growth Agenda for Wisconsin’ is designed to increase access and affordability for lower-income students and nontraditional students, such as those who have served in the military,” said Board of Regents President David G. Walsh. “These grant programs are essential for providing educational opportunities to these students.”
The Board of Regents on Thursday approved a 2007-09 budget request for each of its 26 campuses and its statewide UW-Extension. The request included funding for staff to support and educate students eligible for the Veterans’ Tuition Grant program and the Wisconsin Covenant, a financial aid program which would provide funding to cover college costs for eligible Wisconsin students who take rigorous high school coursework and prepare themselves for college.
Titled “A Growth Agenda for Wisconsin,” the budget request approved Thursday would improve growth, access and affordability across the system, and if fully funded by the state, would keep the average tuition increase to 2.5 percent over the biennium – the lowest recommended tuition increases in at least 25 years.
The Hold Harmless Tuition Grant would provide state financial aid to reduce tuition costs for lower-income students now enrolled at UW campuses. The grant would precede the proposed Wisconsin Covenant. Because the first students eligible for the Wisconsin Covenant would not enroll at UW campuses until 2011, the Hold Harmless Tuition Grant is designed to provide similar financial support for current students.
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee said there is an urgent current need to help students from lower-income backgrounds afford to pay college costs.
“This is very important and really represents the views of all of us,” Salas said.
The Board also urged the state to modify the UW-Wisconsin Higher Education Grant to provide a “dollar for dollar” increase in the grant to match any future tuition increases. Salas reminded Regents that promoting this “dollar-for-dollar” increase furthers needs identified in the Board’s 2004 study of the university’s future, titled “Charting a New Course for the UW System.”
The Veterans’ Tuition Grant would follow the state’s approval of a 100 percent tuition remission for Wisconsin veterans, known as the Wisconsin GI Bill (2006 Wisconsin Act 468).
“Wisconsin has a proud tradition of supporting veterans who seek higher education after defending this nation as part of the military,” said Regent Thomas Loftus. “We can honor the sacrifices they have made, and benefit from their unique skills and perspective, by providing student veterans with both financial and academic support.”
The Board also voted to prevent university funds from being invested with companies that support or abet acts of genocide in the country of Sudan.
“This is the right decision if we are to be humanitarian and responsible stewards of university funds,” said Regent Charles Pruitt of Shorewood.
Regents have historically balanced tenets of socially responsible investing with their obligation to seek the best-possible returns on investment of university funds, Pruitt said.
Pruitt asked the Board to consider the divestment, noting that the university could contribute to a critical mass of institutional investors in discouraging business activity that supports acts of genocide occurring in the Darfur region of Sudan.
The vote to divest funds from these companies is similar to recent actions by colleges and universities elsewhere in the United States. Pruitt reported that the State of Wisconsin Investment Board has also inquired about the university’s review of divesting from companies that do business in Sudan. He noted that colleges and universities acted similarly in the 1980s related to investments in South Africa during apartheid.
The Regent vote directs that UW System assets held in separately managed accounts, over which the Board of Regents serves as trustees and fiduciaries, shall not be invested in companies that do business with the Sudanese government or have been complicit in the Darfur genocide. Investments will also be prohibited in companies that provide military equipment, arms or defense supplies to any Sudanese domestic party. Where assets are invested through mutual funds, the fund firms will be notified of the Board’s action and asked to adopt similar policies.
The directive may require divestment of current holdings and screening out of some securities to prevent future investment in them, the resolution said.
Student Regent Chris Semenas of UW-Parkside applauded the Board’s action, noting that the decision to divest was responsive to the concerns raised by a variety of national and international groups.
In other business, the Board approved resolutions to:
- Authorize a bachelor’s of science degree in Microbiology at UW-Milwaukee;
- Authorize a bachelor’s of science degree in Health Science at UW-Stevens Point;
- Approve amendments to the UW-Whitewater Faculty Personnel Rules;
- Approve amendments to the UW-Extension Faculty Personnel Rules, and acknowledge receipt of the UW-Extension Academic Staff Rule Revisions for review;
- Approve a charter-school contract extension for the Milwaukee College Preparatory School;
- Authorize the recruitment of a Provost and Vice Chancellor at UW-Eau Claire;
- Accept the 2006 Research and Public Service Report;
- Accept the Annual Report on 2005 Undergraduate Drop Rates;
- Authorize the sale of the UW-Milwaukee chancellor’s residence at 4430 North Lake Drive, Shorewood;
- Authorize UW-Oshkosh to purchase property to provide office space; and
- Authorize various facility maintenance and repair projects.
Citizens signal support for UW plan to serve more students, President reports
Regent President David G. Walsh of Madison on Friday thanked his fellow Regents for their action the day before to approve a 2007-09 budget request on Thursday that would hold down tuition and focus on growth, affordability and access.
“We should all be proud of our first step,” he said. “Now the very simple problem is to persuade the decision-makers.”
Walsh said he has made several recent presentations to community service clubs in south-central Wisconsin, and he plans to visit similar groups around the state in the coming months to talk with citizens about how the UW System can further college access, affordability and Wisconsin’s economic growth.
“It’s clear to me that the people in those audiences care a great deal about this system,” Walsh said.
He said citizens are fair in criticizing the university’s missteps, but that largely, they support the UW’s mission and goals to serve students. Many of these citizens say they don’t understand why their elected leaders do not publicly support the university’s goals to provide more graduates and expand research in the state, he said.
Walsh said the university must be mindful of the need to clarify facts when they are misrepresented to the public. He cited the example of the Board’s decision earlier this year to set more-competitive tuition rates for nonresident students. The Board’s decision is expected to, over time, provide more slots for Wisconsin students by attracting more out-of-state students to campuses outside of Madison. Nonresident students at campuses other than UW-Madison now pay three times the tuition rate charged to resident students. By paying for more than the cost of their education, nonresident students provide additional revenue to the university and subsidize costs and slots for Wisconsin students.
But some politicians, Walsh said, inappropriately say that the Board’s decision limits access for Wisconsin students.
“It’s our job to politely point out that that’s not what we did,” Walsh said. “This is the world we deal in in trying to persuade the decision-makers to buy into our agenda.”
Walsh also said the Regents must remain good shepherds of taxpayer dollars and fix mistakes when they arise.
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee said he was pleased that Regents welcomed students to the previous day’s conversation about the budget request, encouraging the Board to always be responsive to student questions and concerns.
Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee agreed that support for the UW’s Growth Agenda from Regents, community leaders, and business officials will be crucial to its success.
“Every single one of us has to step up,” she said, adding that local, grassroots support was also vitally important.
Good News: Faculty turn attention to collaborative research
More than 50 research scientists and faculty from 10 four-year UW campuses, and two UW Colleges are working to foster inter-campus and interdisciplinary research, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly told the Board of Regents on Friday.
The group of faculty and researchers is discussing ways to collaborate on research by sharing expertise, equipment or facilities to further innovation and discovery in fields like biotechnology, genomics, chemistry and microbiology, he said.
The researchers held an initial meeting in June with support from WiSys, a UW System intellectual property organization; the UW System Office of Federal Relations; the Great Lakes Wisconsin Aquatic Technology and Environmental Research Institute (WATER Institute) at UW-Milwaukee; and the patent law firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek.
President Reilly also reported to the Board that:
- Four UW-Eau Claire graduates have received Fulbright Awards. Justin Van Ness, Jenna Cushing-Leubner, Amanda Hill and Trevor Hagen will teach and conduct research in Spain, Belgium, Austria and the Czech Republic. UW-Eau Claire has had eight Fulbright grant recipients since the year 2000 – more than any other UW comprehensive university.
- UW-Whitewater’s Global Business Resource Center has received a fifth-straight Business International Education grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The two-year grant worth $528,000 will help establish a mentorship program, connect students with minority-owned businesses, conduct global market research and solutions for minority-owned businesses and develop online training programs.
- Nearly 1,000 high school students attended classes this summer on the UW-Madison campus as part of the PEOPLE program. PEOPLE is a partnership with public schools that identifies academically promising students from culturally diverse and economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and provides them with ongoing academic support. Students who graduate from the program and are accepted at UW-Madison receive full-tuition scholarships. 180 have been awarded to date. Ninety-four percent of high school PEOPLE students go on to higher education.
- UW-Washington County is set to offer another collaborative degree this fall with UW-Oshkosh. The degree will be a Bachelor of Liberal Studies with an emphasis in Leadership Development. UW-Washington County also offers four other degrees through UW-Milwaukee.
- UW-River Falls is joining several other campuses as part of a national study to track and encourage student voting this fall. UW-Eau Claire, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Platteville are also participating in the Young Voters Strategies campaign, in cooperation with the Association of American Colleges and Universities. 80 colleges and universities in 30 states are participating in the national campaign. The goal is to register 350,000 young voters in 2006. The project is being funded by a $3 million grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.
Technical college graduates report high employment levels
The latest in a series of annual surveys of Wisconsin Technical College System graduates found that the vast majority were employed six months after graduation, with most staying in the state.
Regents heard from WTCS President Dan Clancy and Associate Vice President for Student Development and Assessment Jayson Chung about a follow-up report the technical college system conducted with its graduates.
“This survey measures the success of our students in meeting their individual goals and in satisfying Wisconsin’s workforce needs,” Clancy said.
Ninety-two percent of respondents were employed six months after graduation, with 76 percent employed in a field related to their WTCS training, according to Chung. He also noted that 87 percent of respondents continue to live in Wisconsin after graduating.
“Individuals who gravitate toward technical or community colleges generally want to stay in their communities,” Chung said.
The survey also found that most students attend WTCS either to prepare for employment or to prepare for a career change.
Chung explained the importance of this evaluation, not only to see what WTCS graduates do and where they live, but also to measure how successful the colleges themselves are in training Wisconsin workers.
“I kind of think of this survey as the ‘Little Engine That Could,’ in terms of our performance evaluation,” he said, mentioning how changes in technology have enabled other survey methods to dominate the landscape. “This survey is still a core piece in how we assess how our graduates are doing.”
Regent Salas commended the work of the technical colleges, particularly Milwaukee Area Technical College, in assisting with the region’s nursing shortage, saying the school provided excellent training for potential nurses.
Clancy also touched on collegiate transfer programs between the WTCS schools and UW System campuses, citing three examples in Madison, Milwaukee and Rhinelander. Students enrolled in these programs must complete a specific set of courses while maintaining a high grade-point average in order to successfully transfer to a four-year campus, Clancy said.
“It’s a long-standing program, one that has been beneficial to both systems,” Clancy said.
The Board of Regents will not meet in September 2006. The Board will hold its next meeting Oct. 5-6, 2006 on the UW-Platteville campus.
Related: Read Aug. 17 (day 1) news summary