MADISON—The state would provide financial aid and support to students from low-income backgrounds to attend a University of Wisconsin System campus under a proposed program supported Friday by the Board of Regents and Gov. Jim Doyle.
Doyle said the program, known as the “Wisconsin Covenant,” would ask eighth-graders to agree to finish high school, earn a “B” grade average, take college-preparatory classes and stay out of trouble, in return for state assistance to attend college.
“This is a basic exchange of promises,” he said “I want the university and the state of Wisconsin to say that if you do all that, there will be a place in the UW System for you. We will work with your families to assure you can afford that education.”
The governor also indicated his strong appreciation for the UW’s Growth Agenda, the university’s long-term plan to increase the number of Wisconsin citizens who have four-year college degrees, and to use the university’s resources to grow the state’s 21st century, knowledge economy.
“[The] Growth Agenda for the university is really directed at how we increase the number of college graduates in this state,” Doyle said. “It is incredibly important, and I want to support it in any way we can.”
Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie thanked the governor for his endorsement of the Growth Agenda. “It will be quite a change to talk about growing enrollment in the university,” Loftus said.
Doyle said the Wisconsin Covenant will require additional resources, but that the program is an important priority for the state. He said he would work with the Board of Regents to direct more financial aid for this purpose in the next budget, and noted that in the last four years, the state has doubled its commitment to financial assistance for college students.
“We’re going to continue that trend,” Doyle said. “It would be nice if the federal government was on the same trajectory we were on, instead of the flatline or slight decrease that they have been imposing.”
Doyle congratulated President Reilly and the Chancellors for their work to highlight, and seek to change, the national trend of students from low-income backgrounds attending college in fewer numbers than other students.
“That’s not acceptable,” Doyle said. “It isn’t fair, and we’re leaving too much talent to the side when we’re not making sure that those kids are coming through.”
Doyle also commended UW-Green Bay Chancellor Bruce Shepard and his wife, Cyndie, for their work with the campus’s Phuture Phoenix program, which seeks to foster college aspirations among disadvantaged students in northeast Wisconsin.
While details must still be worked out about how to implement the Wisconsin Covenant, Doyle indicated that the program must be simple for students and parents to understand. Other considerations for the statewide plan might include establishing a parallel, nonprofit organization to raise private dollars for the program, Doyle said.
The Governor said he and First Lady Jessica Doyle have talked with 8th grade teachers, guidance counselors, students and their parents, as well as the Wisconsin Technical College System and Wisconsin’s independent colleges and universities, and that the Covenant has been very well received.
“Those Covenant scholars in high school will be continually reminded of the promise they signed, and what’s ahead of them,” Doyle said. “That’s what I see the Wisconsin Covenant addressing – saying to those kids, ‘college is there for you.’ And it’s a covenant not only with those children, but with those parents and those families, saying that ‘we’re going to back you up, and we’re going to support you.’”
Doyle said although the state and the public university system cannot guarantee a student admission to an independent college, he hopes those colleges will join the program.
UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells said he worked in Indiana, which has a similar and very successful aid program for students, and urged the governor to consider flexible academic standards so the program can serve students in various K-12 school arrangements.
“The most important thing is the core curriculum,” Wells said.
On other matters, Doyle thanked the Board for its efforts to draw attention to the drastic consequences that could have resulted from the Taxpayer Protection Amendment, a proposed state constitutional amendment that failed to pass the state Senate on Thursday.
“People really understood, on both sides of the aisle, just how harmful it would be to what we are trying to accomplish,” Doyle said.
Regent Brent Smith of La Crosse asked Doyle for his thoughts about whether the state can produce more college graduates or if it should attract them to the state.
“The way to get more college graduates in the state is to graduate more college students,” Doyle said. “We need both a strong, booming economy, and we need universities that are graduating more people. The UW is one of the most attractive industries we have here in Wisconsin.”
Loftus asked how the governor might support the university’s efforts to remain a national leader in stem cell research.
Doyle said the chance to be a national leader is a rare opportunity for the state, and that Wisconsin must not let this chance slip away. Doyle said he expects Wisconsin’s economy to revolve around the kind of biotechnology and biosciences research found in UW laboratories.
“We have the most-advanced and best-qualified team of stem cell researchers anywhere in the world,” Doyle said. “To think that we’re at the forefront of curing disease that people long thought to be incurable is something we should take incredible pride in. Other states are desperately trying to catch up with us.”
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee thanked Doyle for restoring financial aid for the UW in the last budget biennium, and for supporting capital projects on UW campuses, such as research facilities and additional classrooms. He said he hoped the governor would continue to be a champion for helping needy students afford college.
“I’m really hopeful that when we come to the next budget, we’re going to continue to increase that investment,” Doyle said. “Within the context of the budget, it is more than reasonable to expand financial aid.”
Regent Judy Crain of Green Bay reiterated her belief that the Wisconsin Covenant must include outreach to parents and the entire community.
“I think that will help families to believe in a future for their children,” Crain said.
Regent Jeffrey Bartell asked Doyle for his advice on building support for the UW System in the eyes of legislators and the public. Doyle said that individuals who are “flat-out anti-education” may never come to support the university, but that the public has a deep appreciation for the UW’s contributions.
“I can’t tell you how highly regarded this system is,” Doyle said. “Communities deeply respect the leadership of their local campuses.”
Doyle noted any large operation would be expected to encounter challenges like the personnel and technology matters that have drawn attention in recent months, and that the university should really focus on its education and research missions.
“ The more we just stay focused on those basic things, the more the public will support it,” Doyle said.
In a later discussion, Loftus told the Board that the state Senate on Thursday voted to expand veterans’ tuition remissions to 100 percent, beginning in Fall 2007, and suggested that the university do more to support veterans as part of its work to serve more students under the Growth Agenda.
“Wisconsin has a long history of supporting [veterans],” Loftus said. “This is a great opportunity for the UW System to embrace this. [Veterans] are people who have already been trained, education and they are disciplined. They are the best students you can imagine.”
Walsh said he will bring additional background on the idea to the Board at a future meeting.
Regent Mark Bradley of Wausau also reiterated that the UW’s Growth Agenda is the university’s attempt to meet the demonstrated needs of a changing state economy and growing populations, not a plan to grow the university as a state agency.
“We’re asking to grow to meet the needs of the state,” Bradley said.
Regent Elizabeth Burmaster of Madison said the state has understood in the past that the technical colleges needed funding to meet similar needs, and that the UW System must now receive similar support.
Doyle also took time to recognize new Regent appointees Mary Cuene of Green Bay and Jeffrey Bartell, who he would be strong contributors to the Board’s work.
Regent President David Walsh of Madison said he was pleased to hear Doyle’s support for the university’s star faculty, talented academic staff, and leadership.
“And as our parents said, “you get what you pay for,” Walsh added.
Doyle noted that he would be signing a bill on Friday to grant a pay plan increase for UW employees – “people who deserve it and haven’t had it for a while.”
Doyle said the state continues to develop the Wisconsin Covenant, he hoped the university would remain an engaged partner.
“We have the resources here to fulfill this promise to every single student in the state who keeps up their end of the bargain,” Doyle said. “It is at the very heart of the most basic values we have in this state.”
Board honors Regent Roger Axtell, interim chancellors
Regents honored Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville on Friday at his final meeting as a member of the Board following seven years of active and engaged service to the university.
Regent Mark Bradley of Wausau described Axtell as “darn talented” and “just plain smooth.” He said Axtell has been an intelligent, insightful, and perceptive Regent, and that he is a “man of great integrity.” Bradley reminded the Board that Axtell often attributes his lifelong success to his UW-Madison education.
“I think your example is the window through which we will look to examine our dedication and our commitment to public higher education in Wisconsin,” Bradley said.
Axtell said being appointed to the Board of Regents is a cherished honor, and that he has enjoyed working with his fellow Regents and UW staff.
He said he believes the Board has chosen talented and dedicated Chancellors, to whom he said: “ I’m very proud of working with you, and I honor you.”
In closing, Axtell reflected on an historical quote: “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.” But in his case, Axtell said, “Old Regents never die. They just lose their parking permits.”
Regent Charles Pruitt of Shorewood said that Axtell has been “a role model for what it means to be a Regent.”
Gov. Doyle said Regent Axtell is a “a bridge-builder” who will be remembered for his work to bring people together. “His focus has always been to maintain and improve this wonderful university,” Doyle said.
The Board also honored three individuals who have served as interim chancellors, a position that Pruitt noted is “one of the most difficult and challenging jobs we have in the UW System.”
In introducing UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Vicki Lord Larson, Pruitt said the interim leaders have a profound appreciation of their institutions, and they should be honored for their willingness to serve to keep the university sound during a time of difficult time of transition.
“Vicki Lord Larson loves Eau Claire,” Pruitt said. “This is another chapter in a lifetime of service to the UW System and UW-Eau Claire.”
Lord Larson said she was especially thankful to the students, faculty and academic staff. “Collectively, we’ve kept the momentum going, and yes, you have picked a great chancellor for UW-Eau Claire,” she said. “I know he will keep our marks of excellence in the forefront.”
Lord Larson added her support for the UW System’s efforts to assist students from low- and moderate-income families. She said her family supported her as she earned her three degrees, and without that support and scholarships, she would not have been a first-generation college student.
“I firmly believe that we cannot lose any human capital if we are to succeed as a state, and to succeed as a nation,” Lord Larson said. “Keep pushing the envelope to assist [these] students.”
“ It’s been a very interesting 15 months,” Lord Larson added. “I haven’t been bored for a single minute.”
Regent Elizabeth Burmaster of Madison read a resolution honoring the interim chancellorship of Marv Van Kekerix for UW Colleges and UW-Extension, noting his steady leadership, efforts to set a positive tone for future collaborations between the institutions, and his support for unique economic development efforts.
Van Kekerix thanked the faculty and staff across both UW Colleges and UW-Extension.
“They’ve stepped up to the challenges involved in the opportunities in capturing synergies across our two institutions,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder of the work they have done.
Van Kekerix will continue serving as UW-Extension Provost. “These institutions are dear to my heart,” he said. “I believe we have a bright future under the leadership of our new chancellor, David Wilson, and I look forward to contributing all that I can toward the creation of that new future.”
Student Regent Chris Semenas of UW-Parkside read a resolution honoring UW Colleges interim Provost Margaret Cleek, and he said he admired her work to serve the colleges around the state. He commended Cleek for her “noble efforts in advancing the Wisconsin Idea.”
Cleek, who will continue to serve as Provost for the UW Colleges, said her interim service was an honor. “The thing I love the most [about the UW Colleges] is access – we provide access with quality. Please preserve what the UW Colleges does for the state.”
“I went from shock, to interest, to dedication to the cause,” Cleek said of the UW Colleges/UW-Extension integration. “Eighteen months later, I think to myself, this was a darn good idea.”
Walsh updates Board on failure of Taxpayer Protection Act; Reilly shares “Good News”
Walsh told the Board that the proposed Taxpayer Protection Amendment failed to pass a vote in the state Senate on Thursday night, and he reminded the Board that it had taken a strong stance against the proposed constitutional amendment. “It was the right thing to do, and we did it,” Walsh said.
“We wanted to make abundantly clear that if any version of the TPA passed all of our campuses would be smaller,” added UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells, emphasizing that the campuses, instead, need to grow their capacities. “That is the message that I think resonated.”
Walsh said he believes that legislators have realized that with investment in university facilities and research, the cycle of economic benefits increases. “We are part of the solution to the economic problems of this state,” he added. “What happened last night, my prediction, is the start of something good.”
Walsh also reported that the Regent committee reviewing the disciplinary process for faculty and staff, as well as institution-based Faculty Senates, have been working to solicit and send input on the process. The Board is expected to revisit the disciplinary process in June.
“Somewhere in the middle, we have to find a solution,” Walsh said.
UW System President Kevin P. Reilly reported to the Board that 238 students representing every UW campus were at UW-Stout Friday morning for the 7th annual UW System Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity.
Like the UW System’s Posters in the Rotunda event last month, the presentations address a wide variety of issues that can benefit the state, Reilly said.
Reilly also welcomed David Wilson, the first chancellor of both UW Colleges and UW-Extension, to his first Board meeting, and sent best wishes to the students and their families who will celebrate graduations across the UW System in the next couple of weeks.
“We expect to graduate more than 30,000 highly skilled professionals, all of whom are prepared to the vitality and the quality of life in this state,” Reilly said. “These graduates are among the university’s greatest contributions to the state.”
Other “good news” items in Reilly’s report included:
- The Wisconsin PK-16 Leadership Council has, for the second year in a row, honored a UW program with the 2006 Promising Practices Award. The second consecutive award went to a collaborative reading program in UW-Superior’s Teacher Education Department;
- UW-Extension has earned the University Continuing Education Association 2006 Recognition of Excellence Award for Innovations in Outreach and Engagement in recognition of UW-Extension’s Diversity Program Development Initiative;
- UW-Marathon County has received a $3.2-million-dollar Congressionally directed grant to support the campus’s planned expansion. The $6.8-million-dollar project would allow the campus to grow its services to the state through a 350-seat theatre, outreach offices connecting the campus to the wider community, Wisconsin Public Radio studios, Continuing Education, and a proposed Institute for Public Policy and Service;
- UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources Dean Christine Thomas has been named to the 11-member Sporting Conservation Advisory Committee by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior;
- UW-Milwaukee hosted the grand opening of the Pavilion at UWM this week, a new academic, athletic and recreation facility;
- UW-La Crosse researchers chemistry professor Aaron Monte, microbiology professor Marc Rott, and student Leah DeFoe were honored last month for their patent of anti-infective agents derived from the Native American plant, Comptonia Peregrina;
- UW-Green Bay and the Brown County UW-Extension were among the co-hosts of the first Leadership Summit on Diversity last month, which was attended by nearly 200 community members;
- UW-Whitewater has again ranked No. 1 on the Certified Public Accountant exam, reflecting the percent of undergraduate students achieving first-time pass rates on the national exam;
- UW-Oshkosh leads the state in renewable energy use, and nationally, UW-Oshkosh ranks 23rd among all U.S. colleges and universities using renewable energy;
- Richard Davidson, a UW-Madison professor of psychology and psychiatry, was honored this week by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people of 2006. Davidson’s study of how psychological and social factors influence physical health gained international attention in the 1990s, when he worked with the Dalai Lama to investigate the effects of meditation on the brain;
- UW-River Falls has signed an agreement with Unidad Academica Campesina-Carmen Pampa of Bolivia, launching a cultural and academic exchange program between the two universities. Known as “Project Bolivia,” the partnership offers degrees in agriculture, veterinary medicine, nursing, teacher training, and eco-tourism; and
- Ron Turano, a recent recipient of a UW-Parkside honorary degree, was recently elected to the Senate in Italy – one of five international members of that body, Reilly said.
Regents eliminate vehicle allowance for academic leaders
The Board on Friday voted to accept President Reilly’s recommendation that the chancellors and president be provided vehicles through the state government’s leasing program. The change eliminates the $700 per month vehicle allowance that was provided in recent years, and the new arrangement will begin as soon as existing contractual obligations are fulfilled. The new plan is expected to be less expensive than the allowance policy, said Regent Pruitt, who chairs the Business, Finance and Audit Committee.
The Regents also approved resolutions to:
- Accept the 2005-07 Administrative Position Reduction Report for submission to the Secretary of the Department of Administration;
- Authorize the UW System President to distribute to academic leaders the delayed pay plan funds that were recently released by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations;
- Accept the annual report of the Wisconsin Partnership Fund for a Healthy Future;
- Approve and amend a request for support from the William F. Vilas Trust Estate, and accepting the proffer from the Trustees for support of scholarships, professorships, and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences and music;
- Authorize a bachelor’s in liberal arts for teachers at UW-Parkside;
- Authorize a Ph.D. in social work at UW-Milwaukee;
- Authorize UW-Milwaukee to extend the contract of a charter school through the YMCA Youth Leadership Academy for four years;
- Grant approval to UW-Extension to grant an easement for an AT&T Telecommunications Cabinet;
- Grant authority to Adjust the Project Scope and Budget of the UW-Madison Health Emotions Research Institute (HERI) Addition Project;
- Grant authority to acquire a parcel of land for the expansion of University Research Park;
- Grant authority to amend agreements contained in the Master Term Sheet with Madison Real Estate Properties for the redevelopment of the University Square Development Project;
- Approve the Design Report and granted authority to construct the South Campus Parking Ramp project at UW-Oshkosh; and
- Grant authority to increase the project budget and construct the UW-River Falls Dairy Science Teaching Center Project through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.
- In closed session, the Board voted to increase the annual salary for Kenneth Davis, Dean of the UW-Madison Law School by $22,352 to 270,000, effective July 1, 2006. Read a news release regarding this action by the Board of Regents
The Board of Regents will hold its next meeting on June 8 and 9, 2006, on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus.
Related: Read May 4 (day 1) news summary