MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System is going “full steam ahead” with plans to restructure the UW Colleges and UW-Extension, according to President Ray Cross.

Presenting the first progress report on the planning and implementation process since the Board of Regents approved the restructuring proposal last month, Cross told the Regents Thursday that significant progress is already being made.

“We are well underway in the planning phase, with the goal of having the new organizational structure in place by July 1,” Cross said.

Cross provided an overview of the project’s Steering Committee, chaired by Rob Cramer, Vice President for Administration. The committee includes representatives from UW College and UW-Extension, UW System Administration, the receiving comprehensive and research institutions, and the rest of the UW institutions. It receives vital input from the Chancellors Advisory Group, as well as faculty, academic staff, university staff, and students Shared Governance representatives.

Cross identified several key decisions that have been made:

  • UW Colleges will continue to proceed with curricular development and planning for the 2018-19 academic year in collaboration with academic leadership at their respective receiving institutions;
  • UW Colleges will continue to schedule classes and faculty assignments for the 2018-19 academic year. For Spring 2018, they will collaborate with their receiving institutions on these decisions;
  • UW Colleges leaders will coordinate with their receiving institutions about filling any open faculty positions;
  • UW-Extension will continue to fulfill any current contractual obligations with the counties. After Dec. 31, 2017, new contracts will be negotiated through a collaborative process with UW-Madison; and
  • Current athletic programs at the UW Colleges will continue during the restructure process. Future athletic programs at UW Colleges will need to conform with NCAA guidelines and in compliance with Title IX regulations.

Cross reported that the UW System has been in close contact with the Higher Learning Council (HLC), its accrediting body, as the planning and implementation process for the restructure continues. “Our priority at this time is to complete a single systemwide Change of Structure submission request for HLC,” he said.

Cross noted that the UW Colleges will continue to be recognized as branch campuses, per HLC guidelines and criteria, following the restructure.

While it was originally proposed that UW Colleges’ Associate’s degree in the Online format as well as the same degree in the competency-based and direct-assessment mode – commonly referred to as the Flex format – would be moved under UW System Administration, conversations with HLC have led to an amended proposal.

“We have determined these two delivery modalities should be aligned with an accredited, four-year institution to most efficiently and effectively maintain accreditation continuity,” Cross said.

Regents voted to approve a resolution giving President Cross the authority to address that change. The decision on a receiving institution for the UW Colleges’ Associate’s degree in these two delivery modalities must be approved by the Regents’ Executive Committee.

Board approves new outcomes-based funding model

The Regents approved an outcomes-based funding model for allocating new state funds to UW institutions, in accordance with the newly-created Wis. Stats. §36.112.

As part of the recent budget process, the Wisconsin Legislature identified the following goals, each with four metrics, for the UW System:

  • Growing and ensuring student access;
  • Improving and excelling at student progress and completion;
  • Expanding contributions to the workforce; and
  • Enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness.

The outcomes-based funding model will be in effect after active review by the Joint Finance Committee. Once approved, the funding model will be utilized to distribute $26,250,000 in new state appropriations during the 2018-2019 biennium. UW institutions will receive a proportionate share of new funding based upon the outcomes they achieve for each of the four statutory goals.

It should be noted that the model only applies to new state funding. The distribution of baseline funding to the institutions will remain stable.

Other highlights from Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Regents included:

  • Regents approved a new Faculty and Instructional Academic Staff Teaching Workload Regent Policy. The policy includes a plan for monitoring, rewarding, and reporting the teaching workload of faculty and instructional academic staff for each UW System institution by no later than Jan. 1, 2018, in accordance with the newly-created Wis. Stats. §36.115(8). Jim Henderson, Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, told Regents that the UW System will be further developing a method for reporting faculty workload more broadly, taking into account direct instructional hours; associated academic activities (such as student advising); research, scholarship, and creative activities; and service. “We’re very interested in trying to give a complete view of what the faculty workload looks like,” Henderson said.
  • Regents heard an update on the UW System policy requiring disclosures prior to a student being able to live in university housing or participate in study abroad or study away programs, as defined in the policy.
  • According to the annual Faculty Turnover Report, faculty turnover across the UW System for fiscal year 2017 averaged 7.32%, with a total of 448 faculty leaving UW employment during the year. Of these, 328 were tenured faculty and 120 were probationary (tenure track) faculty.
  • The annual report on faculty and staff compensation adjustments outside any regular state-approved pay plan showed that a total of 31.02% of all staff received base adjustments (including those for promotions, title changes, and changes in duties) during fiscal year 2017. UW Chancellors reallocated approximately $39.0 million in FY2017 to fund these base adjustments. By comparison, reallocations of approximately $34.2 million were made for these purposes in the previous fiscal year. These reallocations represent 1.71% and 1.51% of the respective year’s salary base.

President’s Report

President Cross presented a brief overview of recent state legislative activity. He noted that the UW System continues to work closely with state legislators on a number of initiatives aimed at providing more flexibility and regulatory relief for UW institutions. Cross also told Regents that UW System is committed to working with the State and with Foxconn to ensure talent initiatives are in place to anticipate and deliver the talent needed to support the enterprise.

On the federal front, Cross updated the Board on key provisions in the House and Senate versions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that are of particular interest to higher education, including the income exclusion of tuition waiver, the Student Loan Interest Deduction, and the Lifetime Learning Credit. Cross said the UW System “has been advocating vigorously” for the adoption of the Senate’s approach in retaining these key provisions.

As part of his report on News from Around the UW System, Cross told Regents that UW-Stout has been named a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense. The national designation highlights classes, such as computer networking, that have cybersecurity components.

Photo of State Senator Sheila Harsdorf with Regent President Behling and President Cross

Sen. Harsdorf recognized by Regent President Behling (left) and President Cross

Regents recognize service, support of Sen. Sheila Harsdorf

The Regents approved a Resolution of Appreciation for State Senator Sheila Harsdorf, who has been “a tireless advocate and partner for the University of Wisconsin System for nearly 30 years.”

Harsdorf, who served in numerous leadership capacities in the legislature including as Chair of the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges and member of the Joint Committee on Finance, recently accepted a new position as Secretary of the State of Wisconsin’s Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

President Behling, who noted that he had worked on the Harsdorf family farm growing up, said it was an honor “to recognize someone who I think is one of our greatest advocates.”

President Cross cited Sen. Harsdorf’s commitment to listening and understanding. “She comes to issues without her mind always made up,” Cross said.

Addressing the Board, Harsdorf urged Regents and university leadership to continue reaching out to legislators. “It’s only through working together and working as a team that great things are accomplished,” she said.

“We have a System second to none,” Harsdorf said. “There are states that would give anything have a university system like this one. We can’t take it for granted.”

UW System Administration announces two hires

President Cross announced that Quinn Williams has been named the System’s new General Counsel. Williams comes to the UW System from the Department of Natural Resources, where he has worked as legal counsel for the past 10 years, including as Chief Legal Counsel in the Bureau of Legal Services since 2015. In that time, he has worked closely with the Legislature under two administrations.

President Cross also announced that Rebecca Deschane will be joining UW System’s economic development team as the new Talent Initiatives Director. This is the second joint appointment with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. Deschane, who has been with WEDC since 2001, will help align local, regional and statewide talent and workforce initiatives to support the talent needs of Wisconsin’s businesses.

Two Regents announce they will be stepping down

Regent Margaret Farrow informed the Board that she would be resigning her position effective immediately for personal reasons. The former Lt. Governor of Wisconsin was appointed to the Board in 2013.

Student Regent Lisa Erickson, who was named to the Board in 2016 as the non-traditional student representative, will graduate this month from UW-River Falls with a degree in journalism and minor in food science. Her graduation concludes her term on the Board.

Regents Farrow and Erickson will be formally recognized for their service at a future Board meeting.

In other action, the Regents:

  • Approved a Master of Science in Nutrition and Integrated Health at UW-Green Bay. The program will meet the new entry‐level master’s degree requirement recently established by the national accrediting agency, the Commission on Dietetic Registration;
  • Approved a Master of Science in Applied Statistics at UW-La Crosse. UW-La Crosse currently offers a Bachelor of Science degree in Statistics, which is housed in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics. This graduate program responds to an increased demand for statisticians from both students and the workforce;
  • Approved a Bachelor of Arts in Animation at UW-Milwaukee. This program will provide students with undergraduate training to meet the demand for creative media professionals, such as multimedia artist and animators, in the moving image production industry;
  • Approved UW-River Falls Faculty Layoff or Termination Policy. On May 3, 2017, the UW-River Falls Faculty Senate voted to approve new Procedures Relating to Financial Emergency or Program Discontinuance Requiring Faculty Layoff and Termination. Chancellor Dean Van Galen submitted a formal request for approval from the Board of Regents for these new procedures;
  • Approved a peer group, pursuant to newly-created state statute, for each UW institution that includes institutions of higher education with comparable missions and service populations;
  • Heard a report from UW-Madison Provost Sarah Mangelsdorf on new Wisconsin freshman enrollment, as required by Resolution 10582, approved in October 2015, which provided UW-Madison with a four-year waiver to the nonresident enrollment limit;
  • Approved UW-Parkside’s agreement with Academic Partnerships, LLC to provide educational online program services at the institution, with an amendment calling for Chancellor Ford to defer signing the agreement until the notice process has been fulfilled;
  • Approved a new Regent Policy governing institutional relationships with campus foundations. The policy is intended to formalize UW System policy by codifying existing practices and requirements;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the comprehensive $17.2 million South Campus Utility Improvements project to replace or construct essential new steam and communication utilities along Dayton Street in accordance with the university’s Utilities Master Plan;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to construct the $32.7 million Lathrop Drive/Bascom Hill Utilities Improvement project to replace, relocate or construct thermal utilities, electrical utilities, and civil utilities between North Charter Street and Music Hall along Lathrop Drive and between Bascom Hall and North Park Street in the Bascom Hill area, which is one of the oldest and most historic areas on campus where many utilities have approached the end of their service life;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to enter into a lease of space for the School of Medicine and Public Health, Department of Family Medicine, at 1100 Delaplaine Court;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for authority to construct the $28.6 million Utility Corridor Improvements/Chiller Plant Upgrade project to replace the university’s aging utility infrastructure;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to increase the budget of the UW-Stout Vocational Rehabilitation, Lab 120 Remodel project; and
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct three maintenance and repair projects at two universities an estimated total cost of $6.1 million. Those requests include a facility maintenance and repair project at UW-Stout and two energy conservation projects at UW-Madison.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on Feb. 8-9, 2018, at UW-Madison.