Day One News Summary
The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents began its March 2002 meeting Thursday (March 7) with discussions of proposed state budget cuts, the value of the liberal arts and several other items. The following is a summary of Thursday’s Regents meeting.
Proposed Budget Cuts Could Limit Enrollment
The UW System will be forced to cut next fall’s enrollment by thousands of students if legislators do not roll back the latest round of cuts proposed by the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, Jay L. Smith, president of the UW Board of Regents warned Thursday.
In an unusually pessimistic message to the board, Smith said the UW simply could not absorb cuts beyond Gov. Scott McCallum’s proposed $51 million budget reductions without drastically harming educational quality or student access. Earlier this week the legislative finance panel voted to cap the UW’s tuition increase to 8 percent (a potential $9 million revenue loss) and to cut state agency budgets overall by $23 million, some portion of which would be absorbed by the UW.
If the tuition cap and further cuts are sustained in the final state budget, “the only recourse is to shut our doors to many deserving students,” Smith said. “Otherwise, we may permanently jeopardize the quality education of which our citizens are so proud.”
Following Smith’s budget remarks, the Board of Regents continued its discussion on a state compact, which was first discussed at the February 2002 regents meeting. The discussion is part of larger regent conversation on “Building Our Resource Base, a top priority for the board this academic year.
According to the executive summary of the report on the topic, a compact between a state and a university is a negotiated agreement, where the state commits to certain annual funding increases over a fixed period of years. In addition, the state often also increases operating flexibilities for the university. In turn, the university commits to accountability on a number of performance indicators. In order to maintain predictability and continuity of funding, an important feature of these agreements often is a commitment that the state would exempt the university from cuts in future state budgets. In the February discussion, four elements of a compact were identified: aid, accountability, flexibility and funding. At its meeting Thursday, the Board of Regents discussed six possible and more specific elements: quality control, revenue control, enrollment purchase, lump sum budgeting for compensation and new initiatives, standard costs and affordability compact.
The Value of the Liberal Arts
As part of the Regents’ longstanding interest in improving quality in the UW System, the board heard a presentation on the value of the liberal arts. Presenters were Bruce Shepard, chancellor at UW-Green Bay; James Veninga, dean of UW-Marathon County, a two-year campus of the UW Colleges; and Jane Tylus, associate dean and professor of French and Italian at UW-Madison.
As part of the discussion that followed their presentations, Regent President Smith asked how the board and Wisconsin citizens should view the liberal arts in light of the state’s current fiscal crisis.
Veninga said a strong grounding in the liberal arts would help put the state’s economic situation in perspective and set the foundation for strong public policy. “A broader political perspective, cultural perspective, social perspective and economic perspective would certain help the situation,” he said.
Shepard added that a well-educated citizenry would have the ability to look past the superficial analyses presented on the state’s fiscal woes from various constituencies to understand the broader causes and implications of it.
Regent JoAnne Brandes praised the liberal arts, saying that it fosters creative and critical thinking skills and generates a strong commitment to community. From her vantage point as a business executive, she said the employees that she most often sees succeeding in their careers have an educational background in the liberal arts.
“People who don’t (have a liberal arts background) are not able to interact effectively with others, are not problem solvers and are not team players,” she said.
Tylus mentioned that the liberal arts can lead to a brain gain for Wisconsin. She added that UW-Madison recently received a $400,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to establish a Center for Upper Midwest Culture.
“It’s my hope that we can use the center to educate our students about Wisconsin and get them to stay in Wisconsin after graduation,” she said.
DPI Presentation on PI-34
Following the liberal arts discussion, an overview of the Wisconsin Quality Educator Initiative was provided by Regent Elizabeth Burmaster, state superintendent of public instruction, and Jack Kean, assistant state superintendent of public instruction, division for academic excellence.
For the past 10 years, the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction has been working on a new structure for teacher education and licensing. Now Wisconsin is providing leadership for the nation with the adoption of Chapter PI 34, which took effect in April 2000 and establishes Wisconsin Teacher Standards.
All UW System institutions now operate under Chapter PI 34’s guiding principles:
- Performance-based program approval and licensure
- Shared vision of what educators should know and be able to do
- Improved student learning
- Career-long educator preparation
- Collaboration among higher education, PK-12 and DPI
- Community of learners
Kean used career-long educator preparation as an example of a fundamental change in standards. Under the old system, teachers needed to attain a certain number of credits every five years. Under the new system, which fully takes effect in August 2004, teachers create a plan, validated by teams of peer educators, for the type of license they hold.
Existing teachers – those who already hold a professional license – will have a choice as to which system they wish to follow. Burmaster emphasized, however, that she will encourage teachers to adopt the new system.
“As state superintendent, I will be working with the educational communities to show the strengths of this plan to form overall school improvement plans,” Burmaster said. The overall goal, she added, is to close the student achievement gap.
Because lack of support is the major reason new teachers leave the field, the ongoing mentorship built into PI 34 is expected to be an important component to improving teacher retention rates. Kean called attention to the serious shortage of special education teachers and that incentives are needed to recruit these teachers. On a related note, Burmaster said that she hopes the continued communication between graduates and their institutions will create a reciprocity of learning – institutions will benefit from hearing directly from graduates on what teaching is like.
UW-Oshkosh, UW-Madison, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater are four of eight schools currently piloting the process to evaluate the validity of the assessment criteria. DPI is building fiscal estimates to determine how much federal and state funding will be needed to sustain the program when it is fully implemented in fall 2005.
UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Nancy Zimpher proposed a presentation for a later meeting about the many partnerships being formed in Milwaukee to improve the climate of the city’s schools. She described the Milwaukee effort as “very compatible with this reform initiative” and said it could provide a valuable “street-level” view.
UWM Academic Planning
The committee heard a presentation on academic planning at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The campus is moving ahead to beef up its research activity with the goal of becoming one of the nation’s preeminent urban universities. Under the plan, the campus would add doctoral programs in six areas: history, Africology, social welfare, biomedical imaging (in cooperation with the Medical College of Wisconsin), information sciences and health sciences.
UWM Provost John Wanat told Regents these programs would be paid for with a combination of funds from growing student enrollments, state support, internal reallocations, private contributions and growth in research funding. He noted that in the past five years, UWM has doubled its research grants to about $30 million per year. As an example of internal reallocation, campus administrators noted that they had cut back on several programs that are of lesser priority including a four-year medical records degree program. A new doctoral program in history will come back to the Regents later this spring for approval.
Several regents on the Education Committee strongly endorsed the campus’ plan. Regent JoAnne Brandes said new degree programs were important to Milwaukee’s economic development. “There are many companies in Southeast Wisconsin who want to see their employees move to the next level,” said Brandes and these programs would provide that opportunity.
Regent Gerard Randall echoed that support, adding, “Milwaukee needs a strong, urban, doctoral granting university.”
The Quality of the Undergraduate Experience
Representatives of UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stevens Point and UW-Stout made presentations regarding the quality of the undergraduate experience. Focusing on students who are admitted without declared majors, they spoke of a variety of programs developed to assist students in identifying appropriate majors and career paths. Ultimately these programs should enhance retention of students who enter college without clear academic or career choices.
At UW-Stevens Point they have modestly improved their retention rate for students between the first and second years through a program that coordinates academic and career counseling. In some cases it becomes an “intrusive advising approach” for students who are not succeeding in their chosen majors. They identify students who are having difficulties and offer advising for the selection of alternative majors.
At UW-Stout students in the “undecided” category are encouraged to take a career exploration course. The course includes individual career skills and interest assessment and information on preparing for careers. By the end of the course each student produces an individual career research project and develops a career plan. Of the 280 students who have completed the course, 80 percent are either still enrolled or graduated.
Frank Goldberg, UW System associate vice president for policy analysis and research, told the committee that each of these programs is designed to help students make better academic and career decisions. Cora Marrett, UW System senior vice president for academic affairs, observed that these programs address both student retention issues and how to create engaging undergraduate experiences.
Theatre Arts programs
Faculty and staff representatives from UW-Oshkosh and UW-River Falls presented proposals for new B.A./B.S. programs in Theatre Arts. In both cases, the campuses already have theatre arts programs, but they are categorized as “theatre arts emphasis” within communications programs. The presentations were informational. No action was requested at this time.
UW-Parkside charter school
The Education Committee approved a resolution for UW-Parkside to enter into a charter school contract with Racine Charter One, Inc. Regent Elizabeth Burmaster said she had a few technical concerns about the contract, but that Department of Public Instruction personnel would work directly with UW-Parkside and Racine Charter One to address those matters.
Business and Finance Committee
Building Our Resource Base
Kathi Sell, UW System associate vice president for budget and planning, facilitated continued discussion on the state compact. According to Sell, five states have implemented compacts that are in effect for a fixed number of years, and four of those states have also had recent budget cuts. After Regent Phyllis Krutsch brought up including a tuition and financial aid linkage in such a compact, Regent Guy Gottschalk suggested that setting tuition based on 95 percent of midpoint for tuition at peer institutions would be a consistent methodology with the way salaries are set. Regent Roger Axtell stressed the need to look for new revenue sources, such as nontraditional students and e-learning. A discussion followed about the revenue streams from web-based learning, to which Chancellor Jack Miller of UW-Whitewater contributed insights from the MBA program at his institution and stressed that the product should differentiate the price, not the students.
United Council Student Priorities
Maggie Brown of United Council summarized recent discussions with UW System students about the most pressing concerns for students. Building a resource base and retention were given top priority. Brown said that students would support an affordability compact, since the average student debt is more than $15,000. In response to a question from student Regent Tommie Jones, Jr., she said students are lobbying in support of legislation to link tuition increases to increases in financial aid. As for retention, Brown stressed that the System needs to look at why students are leaving in order to create ways to intervene. Krutsch suggested that one way to alleviate debt burden is to graduate sooner and asked Brown if students had discussed this strategy. Brown indicated the topic had been discussed and that academic and career advising was essential to achieving such a goal. Chancellor Miller briefly discussed the efforts at Whitewater to intervene in order to increase retention, such as a peer mentor program. The idea of cohort tuition was also discussed, and Sell clarified the two models that had been previously introduced, including freezing tuition for a cohort for a given period of time or increasing tuition at the rate of inflation for a cohort.
2002-03 Annual Budget Decision Rules
UW System Assistant Vice President for Budget and Planning Freda Harris facilitated a discussion of the annual budget decision rules. She pointed out that the biggest changes in the rules were the additional funding for the Wisconsin Agricultural Stewardship Initiative and the base reductions for the UW System. The committee passed the resolution adopting the rules.
NACUBO Cost of College Report
UW System Vice President for Finance Deborah Durcan presented a summary of the NACUBO report, which concluded that for most of the participating institutions, costs of education exceeded the price which students are charged. The UW System was at the lower end of the range for the amount which students are subsidized, indicating that UW institutions are affordable and efficient. She stressed that conclusions about the report must be made cautiously since it was not based on a random sample of institutions and several assumptions and different weighting factors were used.
Report of the Vice President
Durcan summarized a recent report from the National Center on Education Statistics. The report concluded that for public 4-year institutions, tuition increases were correlated with decreases in state appropriations for higher education. The report also concluded that for private institutions, there was a correlation between tuition and financial aid; there was no such correlation at public institutions. Durcan also pointed out that if the UW System were to spend according to the peer average, it would spend $115 million more on administrative costs.
Physical Planning and Funding Committee
The Physical Planning and Funding Committee began its meeting with the announcement of several awards. Governor McCallum recently presented River Architects with an Excellence in Architectural Design award for the UW-La Crosse Wing Technology Center. Arnold & O’Sheridan of Brookfield received an Excellence in Engineering Design award for the design work on the Chemistry Fume Hood Replacement at UW-Milwaukee. Tom Sonnleitner of UW-Oshkosh was presented with an Excellence in Service award for assisting the Division of Facilities Development in coordinating campus building projects.
Report of the Assistant Vice President
Assistant Vice President for Capital Planning and Budget Nancy Ives has reviewed a draft of the 2003-05 budget instructions, which evaluates the state’s ability to pay for its debt service. The state wants to keep its debt payment at no more than 4 percent of general funds. At present, it is at 3.75 percent.
She also reported that campuses have submitted requests for funding, which total nearly $300 million, about the same as the last biennium. In related business, Regent Lolita Schneiders requested the creation of a proposal to build operating and maintenance funds into the funding for new buildings. She said it was important to create long-term plans for not only funding but also maintaining new buildings. She pointed out that, currently, maintenance funds are among the first to be cut when budgets are tight, leading to insufficient funds for adequate upkeep of facilities.
In other action, the committee approved the following resolutions:
- Authorizing the Board of Regents to terminate leased property rights to about 88 acres of land leased from Taylor County, once the site of the UW Center-Medford campus. Termination of the lease will allow Taylor County to add about 28 acres of the land to the city of Medford’s industrial park. The Medford campus was closed in 1980-81, but action was not taken to terminate the land lease.
- Authorizing UW-Green Bay to accept a gift from the Wisconsin Chapter of the Nature Conservancy of three parcels of land totaling 132 acres located at Point au Sauble on the east shore of Green Bay. According to deed restrictions, the land must be used for student learning and research and remain in pristine condition.
- Authorizing approval to construct the UW-La Crosse Cartwright Student Center Chilled Water Utility Connection project at an estimated cost of $236,200, to be paid with program revenue. The project will replace the present chiller, which has undergone three major overhauls and is not in a condition to operate much longer.
- Authorizing an Aquaculture Demonstration Facility at UW-Superior, with an amendment that it is the intent of the Board that operations shall not be funded from the UW System’s base budget. The state 2001-03 biennial operating budget includes $600,000 operating funds for the aquaculture facility supported by Native American Gaming Funds, beginning July 1, 2002.
The Board of Regents continues its March meeting on Friday (March 8), starting at 9 a.m. in Room 1820 of Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.