MILWAUKEE — The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents discussed the conflicting priorities presented by recent Joint Finance Committee’s (JFC) biennial budget adjustments at their meeting Thursday (June 9) at UW-Milwaukee. The Board noted that, under the current budget, the UW System will be challenged to simultaneously retain broad student access and high quality instruction.
Freda Harris, UW System associate vice president for budget and planning, described a challenging future for UW System students, should the proposal put forth by the Joint Committee on Finance be allowed to stand.
“If the Joint Finance budget remains unchanged, UW System students and families will again pay more to receive less,” she said.
Connie Hutchison, executive secretary for the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), which distributes state financial aid dollars to students at Wisconsin colleges and universities, emphasized that the gap between tuition costs and available state financial aid is rapidly widening and would continue to do so as a result of the JCF’s proposed budget.
“Financial aid is one of the tools UW schools use to recruit students to their campuses,” she said.
Regent Vice President David Walsh of Madison asked for a clarification about whether the proposed 6 percent increase in financial aid would offset likely tuition increases. Hutchison said it would not, because a 6 percent increase in financial aid awards is a significantly lower dollar amount than a possible 6 percent tuition increase.
“[This disparity] just increases the gap for these students,” Walsh said. “This explanation is just another spin from those who want to cut financial aid. It doesn’t solve the problem.”
Hutchison said that as state-provided General Purpose Revenue (GPR) has decreased, tuition has increased to cover some costs. She noted that increasing disparity between rising tuition and decreasing financial aid could effectively price students out of attending UW System campuses.
Hutchison reminded the board that Gov. Jim Doyle proposed increasing the maximum Wisconsin Higher Education Grant (WHEG) award to $3,000, up from $2,500. However, she said, the JFC removed that provision and opted to maintain the current cap.
Hutchison also noted that awards to all students currently receiving state aid would be reduced by an average of $118, if the $2,500 cap is maintained. She said this would most seriously affect the ability of students coming from low-income families to enroll at a university.
“[These cuts don’t] sound like a lot, but for someone on that kind of [low] income, that could make or break them,” she said.
Walsh said the board’s first priority is providing aid to students who need it most, as those students are no less talented or creative than those who can afford to attend UW System campuses.
Regent Jose Olivieri of Milwaukee said while he understands some of the JCF’s cuts to the UW System budget, he cannot comprehend its reduction of financial aid.
Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa, who attended many of the JCF’s debates over the budget, said she thought the committee did not recognize that its effective reduction of financial aid would result in fewer lower-income students attending UW campuses. She added last year’s financial aid increases were drawn from student auxiliary funds, but that this year the funds will be provided from GPR, requiring an additional investment from the state to cover these costs.
“They’re seeing GPR go in that wasn’t there last year,” she said. “The connection was not as clear as it could be.”
Harris said that the JCF’s cuts to the governor’s proposed UW System budget would mean higher tuition, decreased faculty retention, and diminished financial aid.
Harris explained that the Governor’s budget required $65 million of operation reductions over the biennium, in part to fund $22 million of new initiatives, including 125 new faculty positions. However, she said the Joint Finance budget would require $90 million of operational reductions, cuts to student services, administration and research to fund fuel, utilities, debt service, and $9 million of new initiatives.
Harris said increases in tuition will not alleviate any of the JCF’s cuts to the UW System budget.
“The expected tuition increases will cover the cost-to-continue and the pay plan,” she said. “It will not reduce the cuts.”
Regent Mark Bradley of Wausau pointed out that state support for the UW System is well below the national average, and that the system faced a similar problem in 1986, when the Legislature conducted an audit that found the university’s resources were insufficient to support student enrollment levels. In 1995, this problem was alleviated, but the solution required that the UW System admit far fewer students than it did nine years prior, he noted.
“Those 1986 problems sound a lot like the problems we are having now,” he said.
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly encouraged the Regents to think about some serious questions regarding the future of higher education in Wisconsin.
“Do we want to increase access to higher education in Wisconsin, or do we want to limit it by shrinking enrollments?” he remarked. “Do we want to continue to raise tuition to offset budget cuts without parallel financial aid increases, or hold down tuition increases? Do we want to stoke the university’s powerful research engine and strategically connect that engine to job creation and the discoveries of the future?”
Reilly also said he was encouraged by recent newspaper and broadcast media support for an increased UW System budget.
“One of the heartening things we’ve seen is editorials and media support around the need for a healthy university,’ he said. “They are making that point very strongly.”
He asked the Regents to communicate the UW’s needs to the full Legislature and to support his call for a bi-partisan Commission on the Future of the UW System.
“This Commission should clarify what the state of Wisconsin wants from its public university, and what its citizens are willing to support,” he said. “Without this clarification, I believe Wisconsin will slip into the backwaters of the 21st century knowledge economy.”
Accountability measure could help UW improve its score on diversity
In working to improve diversity within the UW System, it is critical to use data in place of assumptions about trends within the minority student population, the Regents learned Thursday (June 9).
Vicki C. Washington, interim assistant vice president for academic diversity and development, gave a presentation on a proposed Equity Scorecard, which would help the UW System achieve equity among students and promote academic excellence.
Washington said the ten years of Design for Diversity, a previous institutional diversity plan, and six years of Plan 2008, the system’s current diversity improvement program, have worked well, but need the help of a new initiative, such as the scorecard, to truly achieve equity.
“We have made progress, but I believe we’d all agree that we are not where we’d like to be,” Washington said.
She explained that the scorecard is not a mandate or report card, but a framework and a process that will allow campuses to implement more effective strategies toward closing the achievement gaps between majority and minority student populations.
The proposed scorecard was developed by Dr. Estela Mara Bensimon at the University of Southern California and was originally tested in Los Angeles metro-area learning institutions with high minority populations of 43 to 90 percent.
While the scorecard shows that the California learning institutions should focus on internal equity factors such as retention, climate, teaching, learning, faculty and staff recruitment, and accountability, Washington said that because UW campuses have significantly lower minority student populations, ranging from 3 to 24 percent, Wisconsin may need to focus on both internal and external equity factors, such as access to precollege programs and financial support.
Washington noted Dr. Bensimon’s observation that “What gets measured, gets noticed,” as explanation of the scorecard’s strong reliance on data and evidence. Such factual evidence can motivate faculty and staff to solve the problems of inequity, Washington said.
“Educational inequities are a problem of institutional performance in higher education,” Washington said. “So it is in our self interest and best interest to close the achievement gap.”
Washington said the UW System would like to pilot the scorecard model at four or five campuses.
Provosts from UW-Madison and UW-Parkside, two campuses that might pilot the model, presented information about how the campuses have used data in decisions and strategic actions to increase access and achievement.
UW-Madison Provost Peter Spear presented data showing a decrease in the achievement gap and increase in retention rates of minority students since Plan 2008, launched in 1998. Spear said the scorecard will add to what previous plans have done to improve diversity issues.
“We still have a climate problem for faculty of color, as well as students of color.” Spear said.
Gerald Greenfield, assistant provost of UW-Parkside, talked about specific initiatives in the Criminal Justice program that have helped recruit and retain minority students, including offering majors with courses that deal specifically with minority and community issues.
“Being sensitive to diversity doesn’t mean just doing the same thing you’ve always done,” Greenfield said.
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee asked the Regents to seriously consider how the scorecard could benefit UW System.
“I am very disappointed that some of the campuses continue to lag in becoming part of the new responsibility to recruit and improve diversity,” he said.
Board meets three new Regent members
Regent President Toby Marcovich opened the Board of Regents meeting Thursday by extending a warm welcome to three new regents.
Judy Crain of Green Bay, Michael Spector of Milwaukee and Chris Semenas of UW-Parkside took their places for the first time Thursday at the Regents table.
Crain, who replaces former Regent Guy Gottschalk, has extensive experience in the education system, serving for five years as the President of the Green Bay Board of Education.
“She has a lifelong dedication to education,” Marcovich said. “So this is indeed a good place for her to be.”
In addition to her commitment to the public education system, including serving on the UW-Green Bay Chancellor’s Council of Trustees, Crain is also very active in Green Bay community organizations and has been recognized by the Brown County United Way and the Wisconsin Council on Children.
Christopher Semenas, who will replace Beth Richlen as the new student regent, is involved in the United Council of UW Students and the United States Student Association. He has served as the President of the Parkside Student Government Association and as President Pro Tempore and Legislative Issues Director for the Student Government Association.
Michael Spector, who will succeed Regent Jose Olivieri, serves on the Greater Milwaukee Committee, the UW Pathways to Excellence and the UW-Milwaukee School of Education Board of Visitors.
“He recently chaired Governor Doyle’s Statewide Task Force on Educational Excellence,” Marcovich said, “and we hope he’ll bring excellence to the Board of Regents as well.”
Business and Finance Committee
The Business and Finance Committee on Thursday continued discussion of the morning’s biennial budget update, concluding that the Board should take action to encourage the Legislature to make changes to the Joint Finance Committee’s proposed 2005-07 budget for the UW System.
In reaction to the committee’s proposed cuts to Gov. Jim Doyle’s proposed UW System budget, the members of the committee approved a motion to develop a resolution for the full Board of Regents to consider on Friday in support of the formation of a bi-partisan state Commission on the Future of the UW System, restoring 120 proposed faculty positions, and a $13 million cut in financial aid, committee members noted.
The committee also heard a presentation about a UW-Milwaukee pilot program that would institute a UW System Fraud Hotline. Paul Rediske, director of internal audit at UWM, said the purpose of the hotline would be to provide a confidential reporting mechanism for “whistleblowers.” This confidential, web-based hotline would be operated by an independent provider.
A fraud hotline program would address problems internally, augment Wisconsin’s Whistleblower Law, and implement federal Sarbanes-Oxley guidelines, as recommended by a national higher education association.
Examples of actions that might be reported to a fraud hotline include falsification of hours worked or travel expense reports, waste or abuse of public resources, or misuse of donor funds, he said.
Rediske added that other universities have used hotlines for additional purposes, such as to report gender discrimination or sexual harassment that might be considered by the UW System in the future. He anticipated that a preliminary report on the two-year pilot program might be available in June 2006.
The committee also approved a resolution to allow campuses to implement revised 2005-06 pay plan guidelines.
If approved by the full Board on Friday, the resolution will allow campuses maximum flexibility to address specific institutional needs, given the prospect of only a 2 percent pay plan for faculty and staff in the first year of the 2005-07 biennium.
UW-Madison Provost Peter Spear, and Richard Meadows, UWM dean of the College of Letters and Science, discussed the effects of faculty salaries that lag behind those at peer institutions.
Spear compared UW-Madison to a major league baseball farm team. Faculty members are hired, groomed, and if they are good, other public or private universities “pick them off,” Spear said. He added that UW-Madison faculty had twice as many outside offers this past year.
Meadows pointed out that the problem of lagging salaries cuts across faculty rank, gender, and discipline at UWM. He noted that the UW-Milwaukee College of Letters and Sciences made three times as many counter-offers in Letters and Sciences alone.
The committee also acknowledged that the Board would usually approved new executive salary ranges at this time of year. However, the committee took no action on executive ranges. When a 2005-07 pay plan is approved, it will apply to faculty, staff and executives.
The Committee also asked UW System staff to prepare a report for the Fall about competitive compensation information, including salary, car allowances, housing allowances, deferred compensation, and other related items.
In her report to the committee, Vice President for Finance Debbie Durcan expressed appreciation to the Joint Committee on Finance for approving funding this week for the current year utility shortfall in the amount of $22.5 million. She also noted that the UW System maintained its Information Technology purchasing authority and the ability to provide its own telecommunication services.
Durcan also shared with the committee updates on tuition increases, faculty and staff salaries, and state budget and GPR funding levels for other Big Ten universities.
The state of Michigan is suffering the most significant financial challenges in the Big Ten, Durcan said, and tuition is expected to increase by as much as 10 percent at Michigan and Michigan State. Michigan experienced a 2 percent mid-year reduction and expects another 4 percent cut in its Governor’s budget, she said.
Across the Big Ten, tuition increases range from a low of 4 percent in Iowa, but most are expected to be in the 6-7 percent range, she said.
In addition, she said faculty and staff salary increases at Big Ten institutions are expected to be in the 2.5-3.5 percent range, with additional flexibility from reallocation.
In general, Durcan observed that UW System peers have much more control over their own destiny, whether it be in setting tuition, insurance, bonding, or capital construction.
In addition, the committee approved two resolutions regarding trust funds:
- Approved a resolution that would allow the UW System to utilize a strategic asset allocation and spending plan; and
- Approved a resolution to acceptance several bequests over $50,000. The committee accepted and recognized bequests from the Paula Ann McCarty Estate, William T. Comstock Trust, George K. Nitz and Trel Tator Nitz Family Trust, and the Helen W. Klingler Charitable Foundation.
UW-Milwaukee has a dual mission as a research university that is not only committed to cutting-edge research but also to ensuring access and opportunity to all students, UWM Provost Rita Cheng told members of the Regents Education Committee on Thursday.
Cheng spoke to the committee about the campus’ unique role as a public doctoral degree-granting institution located in the state’s population center. UWM and UW-Parkside are among the most diverse campuses in the system, she said. UWM also serves a significant number of low-income students. For example, she said, in 2003, 12.1 percent of new freshmen came from the lowest family income quintile, as reported by ACT.
While UWM has 13 percent of the graduates in the UW System, it accounts for 42 percent of African-American students and 27 percent of Latinos, Cheng said. In 2003-04, UWM accounted for 52 percent of the master’s degrees granted to African Americans, 25 percent of those granted to American Indians, 24 percent to Asian Americans and 45 percent to Latino students. At the doctoral level, UWM granted 50 percent of the doctoral degrees awarded to African Americans, 10 percent of the doctoral degrees to Asian Americans and 11 percent of the doctoral degrees to Latinos.
However, the university faces challenges in retaining and graduating students of color, Cheng told the committee, citing significant gaps between 2nd year retention and graduation between students of color and majority students. While students of color who do not need remedial help in math and English progress at about the same rate as majority students, significant gaps appear when incoming students need remedial help in mathematics, English, or both, Cheng said.
UWM is working to improve its diversity and reduce the achievement gap in a number of ways, Cheng said. One effort is to increase the university’s presence in the community, with satellite recruiting offices and more presence in elementary and secondary schools.
In addition, the university is working with precollege and bridge programs to encourage more top-quality students to choose the university, Cheng said. UWM is also looking at ways to warn faculty and counselors early when freshman students are in academic trouble. Efforts to make mentoring and tutoring programs easier to access for freshmen who need help would complement this effort, she said.
Cheng also discussed new doctoral programs that are in process or have been recommended for UWM.
The Education Committee also devoted part of its afternoon session to discussion about the morning’s all-Regent report on the Equity Scorecard. UWM may be one of the campuses at which the concept is piloted, which would allow the campus to use data to provide information and prompt action on diversity and achievement gap issues.
The committee also approved the elimination of the College of Education, Exercise Science, Health and Recreation at UW-La Crosse and the reassignment of its programs. This resolution, which had been tabled at the May meeting, prompted some discussion.
Bruce Riley, a math professor at and a representative of the UW-La Crosse Faculty Senate, protested the reorganization because he said it had been proposed by UW-La Crosse Chancellor Doug Hastad without a presentation to the faculty group. Riley also said the Faculty Senate had wanted to analyze the impact of the decision more carefully.
The committee, however, concurred with Chancellor Hastad, who noted the decision had to be made quickly because of budgetary constraints, especially due to a $1.7 million cut to administrative positions.
In other business, the committee:
- Approved the report on promotions, tenure designations and related academic approval items;
- Approved revised faculty personnel rules for UWM and UW-Stevens Point; and
- Heard first readings of program authorizations for a Women’s Studies major at UW-Eau Claire and a joint doctoral program in physical therapy through UW-La Crosse and UWM.
Physical Planning and Funding Committee
The Regents’ Physical Planning and Funding Committee focused Thursday on recent cuts to the UW System’s capital budget proposed by Gov. Jim Doyle and the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee
The committee learned that the JFC reduced the funding for UW Major Projects by $10 million, which reduces funding of 14 major projects at UW campuses from $164 million to $154 million. The committee also learned of the JFC’s reduction of All Agency Funds for Maintenance, Repair and Renewal by $20 million, from $220 million to $200 million, of which the UW System will now receive $110 million, down from $120 million.
Decisions on where to cut the $10 million from the general fund will be made in the next few weeks as each campus has a chance to state its building priorities, said David Miller, assistant vice president for capital planning and budget.
Three UW-Milwaukee capital projects were also presented to the committee by the host campus. Two of these projects include an addition to UW-Milwaukee’s Klotsche Athletic Center and a public-private partnership that has resulted in a quick development of much-needed near-campus housing.
The JFC did not change this biennium’s planned funding for the UW-Madison-based Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the committee learned. The project involves large requests from both general and program funds which will continue for the next four biennia. UW-Madison officials were concerned about the JFC actions and asked the Regents for the security of those future biennial requests, since it would affect private fund-raising.
The UW System Board of Regents will continue its June meeting on Friday, June 10, at 9 a.m. in the Wisconsin Room of the UWM Student Union.