MENOMONIE, Wis. – Despite unsettled economic conditions and demographic trends that result in  declining numbers of high school graduates, the University of Wisconsin System sustained only a slight dip in enrollment for Fall 2012, the Board of Regents heard Friday.

Comparing preliminary fall enrollments to last year’s final numbers, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly noted that overall enrollments Systemwide appear to be down just 0.6% from last year, largely because of a 4.3% drop in the number of graduate students enrolled. As for undergraduates only, the UW System is seeing a net loss of just 22 students overall.
Mark Nook, Senior

Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs, pointed out that it’s also important to consider the “exit” numbers as well as the “entry” numbers – and UW System conferred a record 35,708 degrees in 2011-12, up from 34,608 the previous year.

“There’s been a lot of things changing in the economy, a lot of things changing in financial aid, that have had an impact on our students,” Nook said.

Nook noted that the percentage of Wisconsin high school graduates who choose to come to UW has been holding level, but institutions have been getting better with attracting non-resident students to offset the impact of declining high school population numbers.

Provost Paul DeLuca presented enrollment data for UW-Madison, where total enrollment reached 42,818 students for Fall 2012, up from 42,441 the previous year.

DeLuca drew the Regents’ attention to trends showing a consistent uptick in the number of degrees conferred by UW-Madison. He said even more striking data relative to enrollment is the decreasing time-to-degree. Average time-to-degree has decreased from 4.19 years to 4.06 on the Madison campus, he said, largely due to the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates and campus efficiency efforts.

Regent Chuck Pruitt questioned whether there is any correlation between an institution’s percentage of Pell grant recipients – an important measure of low- and moderate-income students – and enrollment levels. More specifically, he asked if enrollment declines are linked to financial pressures.

Nook said the current available data is very preliminary, but more in-depth interpretations of that data would be forthcoming.

Nook noted, however, that the potential federal sequestration – which could result in significant cuts in federal college access programs such as TRIO and GEAR UP – could impact both enrollment and retention rates in the future.

Presidents’ Reports

In his regular report, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly told the Board about UW System’s recent activity to amplify economic development work, including discussions with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce. Through such efforts, “we are continuing to work to find new ways to partner with businesses and industries across the State, and ensure that we are aligned in our ability to produce the kinds of skills and workforce that businesses are looking for in Wisconsin in the 21st century,” Reilly said.

Reilly also provided Regents with a brief update on the federal sequestration situation, and its potential impact on higher education, including cuts to federal financial aid programs and cuts in funding for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

“These cuts would be a very, very bad blow to American higher education, right at the time when we’re struggling to help the country put the remained of the recession’s effects behind us,” Reilly said. “We certainly hope they won’t happen and we’ll work with our elected officials to try to ensure that they won’t, but we’re getting closer and closer to that big cliff.”

Regent President Brent Smith also updated the Board on the many visits being made by Regents to campuses around the System.

“Sometimes there is simply no substitute for on-site visits and in-person conversations to get a flavor for the good work occurring on our campuses, as well as the challenges that may sometimes confront them,” Smith said.

Smith also shared the news that President Reilly had recently been nominated to serve as Secretary of the Board for the American Council on Education. Officers will be elected by the annual meeting in March.

UW-Stout presents its strategic goals to Board

UW-Stout Chancellor Chuck Sorensen offered the first in a series of presentations for the Board about UW institutions’ strategic goals.

Sorensen and Meridith Drzakowski, assistant chancellor for planning, analysis, research and quality, described in detail UW-Stout’s planning process and how it has evolved over the years. They described to the full Board of Regents how the university’s mission, vision, values and goals are integrated into the planning process and how it drives decision-making on campus.

Sorensen told Regents that major accomplishments from the planning process include the substantial expansion of the program array, growth in the use of technology in and out of the classroom, the nearly 100 percent employment rate for graduates, the polytechnic designation, and the creation of the Discovery Center.

It is important to tie the action items gleaned from the planning process to a budget, Drzakowski said.  She also said it is important “think big” and expect to have difficult conversations.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved UW Colleges’ request for authority to release a parcel of 12.642 acres of land from the UW-Barron County Lease Back to Barron County;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request for authority to demolish the 59,451 GSF Kunkle Center Building after its current occupant, which is the Children’s Center, moves to newly remodeled space in the Northwest Quadrant;
  • Approved UW-Platteville’s request for approval of the Design Report of the Dobson and Melcher Residence Halls Renovation project, and authority to (a) seek a waiver for single prime bidding, (b) increase the project scope and budget, and (c) construct the project;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for authority to increase the scope and budget of the Carlson (Laurentide) Hall Renovation project to allow for the construction of a Student Success Center Addition;
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for authority to increase the budget of the Fischer and Wellers Halls Renovation project;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval of revisions to the Physical Planning Principles;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to modify the 2013-15 Capital Budget recommendation, which was previously submitted to the Department of Administration in September 2012, with two additional requests for enumeration: (1) UW-Milwaukee: Northwest Quadrant Student Health Services; (2) UW-Oshkosh: Intramural Recreation Field Complex;
  • Adopted guiding principles for the Development of the Confluence Project by UW-Eau Claire and Partners;
  • Approved the reappointments of Greg Nycz, Dr. Philip Farrell, and Dr. Patrick Remington to the UW-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health Oversight and Advisory Committee of the Wisconsin Partnership Fund;
  • Approved the Bachelor of Applied Science at UW-River Falls, and the Professional Science Master of Industrial and Applied Mathematics at UW-Stout;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s two-year clinical trial agreement with Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation;
  • Accepted seven bequests with a total value of $2,266,000;
  • Approved changes to a series of Regent Policy Documents related to social responsibility and investment of Trust Funds; and
  • Approved a resolution of appreciation for UW-Stout for hosting the October 2012 meeting.


The UW System Board of Regents will hold its next meeting November 8, 2012, at Van Hise Hall, Madison

Related: Read October 4 (day 1) news summary