LA CROSSE, Wis. – As students nationwide continue to report rising levels of mental health and wellbeing concerns, universities are exploring additional ways to support overall student success. At Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, the University of Wisconsin System presented an update on three new tele-mental health and wellbeing services that were implemented over the past year.

John Achter, UW System’s senior director of Student Success & Wellbeing, told Regents three gaps in existing services were identified that needed to be filled to better address the mental health needs presented by students:

  • 24/7 support and crisis services, to support students during off hours and on weekends when on-campus professionals are not available;
  • An online mental health and wellbeing portal, to help students with tools, skills, and referrals to manage their academic and personal lives in support of their mental health and wellbeing; and
  • Telecounseling and telepsychiatry services, to provide a relief valve to over-burdened campus services and serve additional students who might not otherwise have access to services on campus.

The additional tele-mental health and wellbeing services, made possible by $5 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding allocated by Gov. Evers, were rolled out during the course of the past year at all universities except UW-Madison, which has its own contract with a telehealth vendor. Mantra Health is now the coordinating vendor for the other 12 universities.

“Within each platform, these services link to each other and are integrated with campus services to work toward a goal of achieving a ‘no wrong door’ approach for student access to support and care,” Achter said.

The numbers of students accessing these new services have been relatively modest to date, but most services only began in late 2022 or early 2023. It’s expected that utilization numbers will rise for all three services as campuses promote them during summer registration and new student orientation.

“What will be important to monitor, in particular, is how the services help during the most critical crunch time for on-campus services, which tends to be from October to December of the fall semester,” Achter said.

Two campus counseling/health professionals shared their perspective on how these services have augmented services on their campuses, with a focus on some specific issues stakeholders hope this contract will address.

Renee Kirby, director of Student Health, Counseling and Accessibility Services at UW-Parkside, told Regents that these services are invaluable on her campus where there currently is one counselor for every 1,600 students — well above the recommended ratio of 1-for-1,000. “Mantra helps fill that gap,” Kirby said.

Riley McGrath, director of Counseling Services at UW-Eau Claire, noted that despite the ratio of counselors to students at his campus being closer to the recommended ratio, “We’re always at capacity. We really needed it.”

McGrath added that UW-Eau Claire has made a very deliberative effort to inform the campus community about available services. “We wanted to be really intentional, so students knew ‘this is here for you,’” he said. He also noted that wait time for appointments has dropped after implementation of Mantra’s services, dropping from 17 days in the fall to 9 days in the spring.

Achter said the value and impact of these services will be closely monitored and assessed to help determine what action should be taken in 2025 when the ARPA funding expires.

Most campus-based services are funded through health fees charged to all students. Achter said the UW System may need to find an alternate funding source or sources that can help level the playing field on under-resourced campuses, while helping all campuses serve the students who want to utilize the resources to improve their mental health and wellbeing, in service to student success.

Program Array Management

Tracy Davidson, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, led a discussion on the current process for academic degree program planning both at the UW System and campus levels, focusing on how campuses identify new program areas that sustain access for students to majors and careers while efficiently managing resources.

Program array management is part of the UW System’s strategic plan to promote innovation and collaboration and to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s current and future workforce.

Davidson highlighted how the more significant growth of new programs in areas like health professions, computer and information sciences, and engineering, for example, reflect high workforce demand.

In the period 2018–2022, about 170 new programs were approved systemwide, primarily in three main areas: directly meeting workforce demand; changing accreditation requirements; or elevation of an existing concentration or minor to a major. In the same time period, about 70 programs were suspended or eliminated, about 45 curricula were redirected to better fit demand; and about 80 programs had changes in delivery modality.

A panel of five provosts shared how program array planning is implemented on the campus level, including examples of programs that have been approved and eliminated. They also discussed improvements to the current planning process that would streamline the process for universities and allow for more responsiveness to changing student and workforce needs.

UW-Superior Provost Maria Cuzzo told Regents that a number of indicators are tracked when assessing a program, including, for example, the number of degrees awarded; number of students enrolled in a major; average credits to degree; average class size; and the four- and six-year graduation rates.
UW-River Falls Provost David Travis also described ongoing changes to UW System’s Administrative Policy 102, which governs program planning, delivery, review, and reporting, to make that process more nimble, data-driven, and designed to encourage collaboration between universities.

Regent Mike Jones, who served for several years on the Education Committee where programs changes are sent for final approval, expressed his appreciation for the detailed description of the due diligence involved in the process.

Regents recognize service of former colleague

The Board formally recognized the service of Regent Emeritus Rodney Pasch with a resolution of appreciation. Pasch served on the UW System Board from July 2021 through May 2023, as president of the Wisconsin Technical College System Board.

Pasch, whose own education started in a one-room schoolhouse, said he has been honored to serve on the UW System board and will continue to follow its efforts going forward. “I’ll be sitting in bleachers to see if you’re a winning team or content to just play the game,” he said.

Pasch urged Regents to “open the doors wide to this university, focus on student learning, and remove the barriers in policy processes and procedures. If you have the will and the strength of leadership to make those changes, turn around and you’ll see that the line of students seeking to get in will be endless.”

Photo of Regent Emeritus Rodney Pasch (second from left) accepting his resolution of appreciation for serving on the Board. Also pictured: (from left) Regent Cris Peterson, Regent President Karen Walsh, and UW System President Jay Rothman. (Photo by Jen Towner/UWL)

Regent Emeritus Rodney Pasch (second from left) accepts his resolution of appreciation for serving on the Board. Also pictured: (from left) Regent Cris Peterson, Regent President Karen Walsh, and UW System President Jay Rothman. (Photo by Jen Towner/UWL)

In other business, the Regents:

  • Presented a resolution of appreciation to UW-La Crosse for hosting the July 2023 meeting;
  • Approved the UW System Status Report on Large or High-Risk Information Technology Projects;
  • Approved an amendment to UW System’s agreement with Huron Consulting Group to increase the number of hours of professional services necessary to support the software implementation for the Administrative Transformation Program;
  • Approved an amendment to UW System’s agreement with Workday, which provides the enterprise resource planning software for ATP; this amendment will add three new modules to provide critical functionality sought by the HR governance committee;
  • Approved agreements with Avaap USA and Strata Information Group, to provide additional staff augmentation to the Administrative Transformation Program;
  • Approved the modification of the UW System undergraduate application fee structure. The resolution maintains the current application fee of $0 for new undergraduate admission, signaling the UW System’s commitment to educational access for all students. After three free applications, subsequent applications will incur a $25 fee;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology;
  • Approved UW Oshkosh’s request for a Bachelor of Science in Automation Engineering;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget of the Veterinary Medicine Addition and Renovation project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to sell 1,067 SF of vacant land adjacent to the road right-of-way and part of the Wisconsin Energy Institute to the City of Madison for construction of the Bus Rapid Transit system;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various all agency maintenance and repair projects:
    • At UW-Madison, the Athletic Facility Repair and Renovation project constructs various maintenance, repair, and renovation scopes of work across the majority of athletics facilities on campus; the Kohl Center Cooling Coil Replacement project replaces cooling coils in 12 air handling units;
    • At UW-Milwaukee, Kenilworth Apartments Exterior Envelope Repairs project repairs the concrete and metal panel façades of the Kenilworth Square Apartments (KSA) building;
    • At UW-Parkside, the Student Center Elevator Renovation project will modernize and replace elevator components for passenger elevator number one. The Wyllie Hall Parking Lot project constructs a new one-acre, 55-stall parking lot east of Wyllie Hall and associated underground utility systems. The Residence Life Fire Alarm System project renovates and upgrades the residence life facilities fire alarm systems to meet current building and fire/safety codes;
    • At UW-River Falls, Hathorn Hall Normal & Emergency Power System Renovation project resolves maintenance and reliability issues with the Hathorn Hall electrical distribution systems and emergency power backup systems;
    • At UW Oshkosh, Titan Stadium Track Replacement replaces the exterior competition track within the Titan Athletic Complex;
    • At UW-Whitewater, Parking Lot 19 Reconstruction project re-constructs the parking lot;
    • At UW-La Crosse, the Wentz Hall Renovation project improves life/safety systems and ADA accessibility in two residence halls;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct various minor facilities renewal projects:
    • At UW-Madison, the Fluno Center Plaza Deck Waterproofing and Repair increases the project budget to match recent bid results for the originally approved project scope; the Armory & Gymnasium Exterior Envelope Repair & Replacement project repairs the exterior masonry walls and replaces the roof for this historic facility;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget for the construction of the Chemistry Second and Fourth Floor Lab Renovation project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for the design and construction of the Engineering Hall Sprinkler Piping and Gas Distribution Piping Phase II project;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to increase the budget of the Chemistry Addition and Renovation project;
  • Approved a request by UW-Madison for authority to increase the budget and construct the College of Letters and Science Academic Building project; and
  • Approved the Fiscal Year 2023 internal audit plan.

More Photos

Photos and captions from UW System Board of Regents meeting: Meeting, reception and more from the July 6 and 7 event on the UWL campus

2023 Board of Regents Photo Essay (Photos by Jen Towner/UWL)

See July 6 (day 1) news summary

The next meeting of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will be October 5-6, 2023, at UW-River Falls.