MADISON — Every applicant who wants to be a student in the University of Wisconsin System will receive a comprehensive, individualized admissions review similar to those used by leading U.S. universities, including UW-Madison, if an updated policy is approved Friday by the full Board of Regents.

“Every applicant deserves our consideration as a whole person,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly.

The Board’s Education Committee on Thursday (Feb. 8) unanimously approved the policy, which would update and consolidate UW System admissions policies, some of which date back more than 30 years.

The policy would make clear that academic achievements are the most important factors in admissions decisions, and preserve long-standing, minimum academic requirements.

It would also make clear that UW campuses admit students who are likely to succeed at the university, and who will both benefit from and contribute to the educational environment.

The policy approved by the Education Committee on Thursday includes several changes made since the Board deferred action in December, including an added clause requiring the Board of Regents to review the admissions policy every five years to ensure that the language remains current and applicable. Regents were also reminded that the policy would meet state and federal law.

Through a comprehensive, or “holistic” admissions review, admissions officers first consider a potential student’s academic achievements. Applications of qualified students are also reviewed for evidence of leadership and/or community service, if an applicant is a military veteran, returning adult, or nontraditional student; as well as socioeconomic background, and status as a member of a historically underrepresented racial or ethnic group.

“It is the fairest approach for our students, and the best method for preserving educational quality at our institutions,” said Rebecca Martin, UW System interim senior vice president for academic affairs. “No single number is a reliable indicator of success.”

Martin clarified that, contrary to some public misconceptions, the policy is not “race-based.” Race or ethnicity will never be the sole nor most important criteria for admissions, she said. Rather, for compelling reasons, the policy is “race-conscious,” in which racial or ethnic factors are considered among many academic and nonacademic factors. This has been a part of the UW’s policy since 1972.

“This reflects a fundamental truth: Diversity in our student body is a compelling interest of our university,” Martin said. “The benefits of learning in a diverse environment accrue to all students.”

While current application forms do not include questions about family income, students sometimes provide information about their socio-economic status in their personal statements or other materials, Martin said.

“We do want to use this factor meaningfully, or else we lose an opportunity,” said Regent Michael Spector of Milwaukee.

Campus representatives will be asked to consider how their applications processes can best collect socio-economic factors, Martin said. UW campuses will also work with school counselors and others to advise parents and students about the factors used to make admissions decisions.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reminded the Board that the university received feedback from people across the state during an educational forum in late January. Through statewide video networks and a special website, the Board heard from dozens of business executives, alumni, students, community leaders, and elected officials. The Board also reviewed letters and e-mails from the public, which included communications from the leaders of the Colleges & Universities Committee of the Wisconsin State Assembly, Rep. Stephen Nass, who has expressed concerns with the admissions policy; and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, who said she fully supports the updated policy.

Reilly dispelled several misconceptions about admissions to the UW System. He stressed that the UW System is not full, but rather, there is a place in Wisconsin’s public university system for any motivated student who wants to earn a college degree. He reminded students who may not be admitted to their first-choice campus that there are many transfer opportunities within the system. “It’s not how you start that counts, it’s how you finish,” Reilly said.

Reilly was also clear that all students admitted to the UW are qualified to attend.

“It makes no sense for us to admit students who are likely to fail,” Reilly said. “If anything, this is a success-based policy. Students are admitted on likelihood of success.”

The Education Committee amended the policy it considered on Friday to make clear that admissions officers may waive minimum educational requirements only if a student has a strong likelihood of success in college, and will benefit from and contribute to the campus.

Finally, Reilly said it is a misconception that students from other states displace Wisconsin students. The facts, he said, are that Wisconsin and Minnesota reciprocity students comprise 91-98 percent of the student bodies at campuses outside of Madison, and 78 percent of students at UW-Madison, he said.

UW-Madison Chancellor John Wiley said he has heard from corporate recruiters for years that the University of Wisconsin needs to be aware why a diverse student body is important.

“Diversity is vitally important for their company, for their competitiveness, for their creativity,” he said. “We are important suppliers of human resources to them. If we can‘t do a better job, they will look elsewhere.”

“It isn’t that they want to hire diversity; it’s that they want to hire people who understand diversity,” added Regent President David G. Walsh. “They don’t want someone who doesn’t understand the need to work in the global marketplace.”

Wiley also agreed that simple test scores and grade point averages do not tell a complete story about an applicant.

“Everything that’s interesting is in the details… you also have to look at how they achieved what they achieved,” Wiley said.

Carlo Albano, a junior at UW-Milwaukee, told the Board that the United Council of UW Students approved a resolution in support of the updated admissions policy, as has the faculty of UWM.

“Let it be known that students stand beside you, as we have all along,” he said. “Faculty stand with you as well.”

Education Committee approves rules for technical college transfer programs

The Board of Regents should consider the needs and priorities of Wisconsin’s state-supported colleges and universities, as well as student access, fiscal well-being, and institutional missions when deciding whether to approve new transfer programs, Regents heard Thursday.

It was with these priorities in mind that the Education Committee, at a special meeting in January, approved criteria the Board of Regents would use when considering new liberal-arts or pre-professional transfer programs proposed by the Wisconsin Technical College System. The full Board will consider the criteria on Friday.

The technical colleges offer two types of related degrees: the applied associate degree, which prepares students for employment in a given field, and the collegiate transfer degree, which can offer education in liberal arts or pre-professional programs. These latter programs are intended to provide new ways for students to earn four-year college degrees, according to Larry Rubin, UW System associate vice president for academic affairs.

State statutes require approval from both the Board of Regents and the WTCS Board if these programs are to be expanded, Rubin said.

Danae Davis, chair of the Education Committee, said the Board would be able to rely on the criteria as it considers the complex set of issues, principles and practices related to such programs.

“We know this can have an enormous impact on the education pathways of Wisconsin citizens,” she said.

New liberal-arts or pre-professional programs can be created if both Boards find that they would appropriately draw upon existing strengths and resources within both systems, without leading to unnecessary duplication, Rubin said.

UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reminded the Board that the UW System and the WTCS have been consistently collaborating in recent years to find new ways to provide Wisconsin citizens more ways to earn a higher education.

These partnerships advance the goals in the “Growth Agenda for Wisconsin” by giving the state ways to produce more four-year college degree holders, to attract more college graduates to the state, and to grow knowledge-economy jobs for Wisconsin, Reilly said.

He noted that the systems already offer 50-70 degrees that include cross-sector collaboration.  UW campuses are among those proposing new programs to serve specific workforce needs in their regions, he said, adding that some of those are in conjunction with technical colleges and private colleges in the state.

He described these collaborations as following the model of a “university center,” a concept already widely in use to meet the needs of Wisconsin.

“Our challenge is to figure out how best to manage that positive energy, in ways that are both educationally effective and cost-efficient,” Reilly said. “The answer is not to let every institution offer everything. The taxpayers would end up paying more per students to pay for college education.”

“We’re all wondering about these questions, and it’s time to start placing individual decisions we make in that kind of concept,” he added.

Regent Elizabeth Burmaster, who is also state Superintendent of Public Instruction, said the systems have a history of collaboration with one another and with the K-12 system.

“We must come together in partnership,” she said. “There are plenty of students to go around. “We are committed to an equal partnership to [be] flexible, and most efficient, and of the highest quality to serve the students of this state.”

Rebecca Martin, interim senior vice president for academic affairs of the UW System, said representatives of both systems have engaged in good-faith dialogue and collaboration in establishing the criteria.

“None of us wavered in our efforts to put the interests of students first,” Martin said.

Regents consider Chippewa Valley Technical College degree

In an afternoon session, the Education Committee held preliminary discussion about a proposed liberal arts associate degree program that would be offered at Chippewa Valley Technical College (CVTC) in Eau Claire.

The proposed program would be similar to existing liberal arts programs at technical colleges in Madison, Milwaukee, and Rhinelander, said Ron Singer, assistant vice president for academic affairs. It would be the first program to be considered under the set of criteria up for a vote on Friday.

The pending criteria would require Regents to consider whether there is a demonstrated need for the program, whether there are opportunities for collaboration within existing UW and WTCS programs, and whether the program would efficiently and effectively use state resources for higher education.

“While we want to provide opportunities to meet the needs of all students, we also have to be mindful of unnecessary duplication, given limited resources,” Singer said.

He said that with these principles in mind, the Board would have to consider whether the program will enhance transfer opportunities and provide ways for more people in Wisconsin to earn four-year college degrees.

Singer said that students in the Chippewa Valley currently have a number of options for upper-level higher education. These include online associate degree programs through UW Colleges, the ability to transfer credits to other colleges and universities, and access to four UW institutions in the region that offer similar education, UW-Eau Claire, UW-Stout, UW-River Falls, and UW-Barron County. Freshman enrollment at UW-Stout, for example, in recent years has been at or near capacity, according to Chancellor Charles Sorensen.

Students also have the option to accept jointly admission to both UW-Eau Claire and Chippewa Valley Technical College, and some have the chance to live in UW-Eau Claire residence halls. The UW Colleges has also proposed an arrangement in which it would locate faculty at CVTC to offer similar instruction, according to UW Colleges Provost Margaret Cleek.

UW-Extension Provost Marv Van Kekerix added that the UW Colleges is working to reach out to working adults who want to earn college degrees through the “Adult Student Initiative.” The initiative will provide support and guidance to help adult students understand the options they have to earn four-year college degrees.

Regent Mary Cuene of Green Bay, who is also President of the WTCS Board, said she believed the program would be very beneficial to students and learners in Eau Claire. A WTCS Board study determined that the technical college program would be an effective and efficient use of state dollars, Cuene said.

Singer suggested that the Committee might find that the program might be more effectively offered as a collaborative degree with a UW campus. President Reilly said he has not yet determined whether he would recommend approval of the program.

The Education Committee will consider action on the program authorization at its March meeting.

Also on Thursday, the Board heard a report from UW-La Crosse about an accreditation review by the North Central Association Higher Learning Commission and an institutional report on general education. The committee asked that the chancellor return in a year for a follow-up discussion.

In other business, the committee approved resolutions that would:

  • Authorize UW-Stevens Point to recruit a Provost;
  • Approve a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology at UW-Milwaukee;
  • Authorize the Milwaukee Renaissance Academy and the Seeds of Health Elementary School as charter schools of UW-Milwaukee; and
  • Appoint UW System representatives to the Natural Areas Preservation Council.

The full Board will consider the resolutions on Friday.

Financial report shows efficiency, sound fiscal practices in UW System

Regents took note Friday of dramatic changes in sources of fiscal support in recent years during a presentation of the UW System’s Annual Financial Report.

The report, released this month, notes that reduced levels of state financial support has been supplemented by increased tuition and extramural support. Adjusted for inflation, state funds have decreased by 10 percent in the last decade, while tuition rose nearly 150 percent.

Regents acknowledged that the UW has done its best to maintain academic quality, student enrollment levels, and sound fiscal practices amid this financial change. Ginger Hintz, director of financial reporting, offered Regents a brief analysis of financial performance, including statements of net assets, revenues, expenses, and auditor communication.

Regents particularly noted a decline in expenditures for institutional support, or administration as defined for colleges and universities. The financial reports shows that the UW System spent less than 5 percent of total operating expenditures on institutional support.

“The UW is doing more, for less,” said Committee Chair Chuck Pruitt of Shorewood.

Committee members also considered the 2006 Trust Fund Report, which showed good returns on long-term, intermediate-term, and income funds, as well as returns from a recent diversification of investments.

The committee also received a report about gifts, grants and contracts for the six-month period ending Dec. 31, 2006, for a total of $625 million.  Federal awards increased by $3.3 million while non-federal awards increased by $24.6 million.

Regents also voted Thursday to approve a salary adjustment for UW-Stevens Point Chancellor Linda Bunnell. The review was a part of the Regents’ systematic review of compensation for senior academic leaders.

Committee members recognized Bunnell, whose campus has the fourth-largest budget of the 11 comprehensive campuses, for her years of service, her leadership efforts to launch a capital campaign, as well as leading the campus’s revision of its facilities master plan, which had not updated since 1968.

President Reilly spoke about the importance of continuity and stability on campus, reminding committee members that executive searches to fill vacant senior academic leadership positions can run upwards of $100,000.

Regent Vice President Mark Bradley of Wausau commended Bunnell for her vision about regionalism.

“She’s been doing the kind of outreach we expect from our Chancellors,” Bradley said.

Regent Elizabeth Burmaster also said the K-12 educational community appreciates Bunnell’s outreach, have a “great respect for her, and feel invigorated by her leadership.”

The salary adjustment of $8,000 places Bunnell at a salary of $187,476, which is 10 percent behind the peer median group, and nearly 20 percent behind peers at higher education institutions of comparable budget size.

The committee also heard from Vice President for Finance Debbie Durcan, who reported that UW System staff are analyzing six years of committee work to ensure recommendations had received proper follow up and action, where appropriate. Durcan also introduced Julie Gordon, UW System’s new director of the Office of Operations Review and Audit. Gordon previously managed financial, compliance, and management audits related to higher education for the state’s Legislative Audit Bureau.

Durcan also told the committee that the UW System will be required to lapse $2.9 million as part of a state effort to reduce spending in the current fiscal year. The effort follows cost overruns in four state programs.

Finally, the Committee examined the history of the Wisconsin/Minnesota reciprocity agreement funding, state-to-state payment calculations, as well as a comparison of tuition and other universities that have reciprocity agreements. Committee members asked to be updated and briefed about any changes or relevant information as necessary.

UW-Madison invests in student life

UW-Madison students told the Physical Planning and Funding Committee on Thursday about their experiences with UW-Madison student life, including investments toward projects and programs in student unions, residence halls, recreational sports and student health serves.

Mary Brannen, who serves as a housefellow at the newly constructed Smith Hall, spoke about the impact housing has on new students. Campus housing with larger rooms, more bathroom facilities, more study areas, and computer labs all help ease the transition for college freshmen.

“The new housing on campus creates an academic learning environment, and as a freshman student, it makes such a difference,” Brannen said.

Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee noted that he has heard from families that they want their college students to live on campus “They feel that it provides a better study environment for their kids,” he said.

Aaron Carruther, a senior majoring in Physical Education, spoke about UW’s Recreational Sports Program. He stated the demand is growing for recreational sports, intramurals, group fitness and aquatic classes, but the campus lacks the space and facilities.

“For a campus our size, we have half the facilities to meet the demand,” Carruther said. “Future building proposals would add about 200,000 square feet in new space.”

Maureen Riley, a senior involved with University Health Services activities, pointed to the approval of a student referendum to provide a new health services facility. According to Riley, the current location is not conveniently located on campus.

“The rooms in the current facility are small and drafty and not that inviting for students,” Riley said. “The new facility will be close to everything, such as student services, and provide one-stop shopping.”

Shayna Hetzel, a student active in the Wisconsin Union, spoke about plans to renovate Memorial Union and Union South, student facilities on campus. The Memorial Union needs updating and a new Union South will help revive the southeast part of campus, she said.

“The role of the union in campus life is important,” Hetzel said. “By investing in our current facilities, future students will be able to enjoy the same experiences as past students.”

In other action, the Committee did not approve a motion that would have provided UW-Whitewater authority to provide temporary academic space on campus.

According to David Miller, assistant vice president for budget and planning, the project is needed because Baker & Salisbury Halls need to be razed to create a site for the new College of Business and Economics Building. Since the demolition of those buildings is scheduled to commence in June 2007, a new temporary location to house the College of Letters and Science and its faculty must be provided. Since there is no alternative location in the vicinity of the campus in which to house the College of Letters and Science and its faculty, a temporary structure was viewed as the best alternative.

Regent Salas requested more information about alternatives to the temporary building. The campus will research those alternatives, and come back to the committee with other options.

Miller also reported that the a 2006 Design and Construction Awards presented by Gov. Jim Doyle honored Excellence in Architectural Design for the Reuter Residence Hall at UW‑La Crosse.

In other business, the committee approved resolutions that would:

  • Grant authority to UW-Madison to lease warehouse space and exercise an option to purchase facilities related to campus surplus programs;
  • Grant authority to UW-Oshkosh to sell land to the city of Oshkosh;
  • Grant authority to UW-River Falls to exchange land for a future building site; and
  • Grant authority for maintenance and repair projects in the UW System.


The Board of Regents will resume its February meeting on Friday (Feb. 9) at 9 a.m. in Room 1820 Van Hise Hall.

Related: Read Feb 9 (day 2) news summary