MADISON – Members of the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents Thursday (March 6) expressed their deep concern over budget cuts proposed for the university and how those cuts could hinder the UW’s ability to educate students and serve the state in the future.
In their first meeting since Gov. Jim Doyle last month announced massive cuts for the UW System in his proposed 2003-05 state budget, the regents reviewed the proposed reductions and how institutions are planning for the cuts.
“As regents, we take very seriously our role as stewards of public higher education for this state,” said Regent President Guy A. Gottschalk of Wisconsin Rapids. “And we have a system that is in jeopardy of becoming less accessible, less affordable, of lower quality, or all three.”
Gottschalk and UW System President Katharine C. Lyall shared with the full board the details of Doyle’s plan to cut $250 million in state support for the UW System. Doyle has proposed tuition increases to offset some of the reduction, which if approved by the Legislature would leave the university with a cut of $100 million.
The proposed reduction to the UW System represents 38 percent of the governor’s total cuts, even though the university comprises less than 9 percent of the state budget, Lyall said. The suggested cuts would shrink the university to 7.1 percent of state spending in the next biennium, even though the overall state budget will grow by about 5 percent.
Lyall also briefed the board on state budget reductions for the current fiscal year. The UW System’s portion of the most recent budget cut is about $8.3 million. With this latest cut, Lyall said the total budget reduction to the UW System during the 2001-03 biennium totals $49 million. Much of this reduction has come from administrative functions.
“The next round of cuts will necessarily affect academic programs, student-teacher ratios, access to sections, and perhaps, admissions for fall ’04 and beyond, depending on how the final budget comes out,” Lyall said.
Regent Jay L. Smith of Middleton said the long-term trend of declining state support is troubling. While the state provided 50 percent of the UW System’s budget when it was created 30 years ago, that figure is now just 30.9 percent, and only 23.5 percent at the flagship campus in Madison.
“My personal view, from a businessman’s perspective, is that our major partner is spinning us off,” Smith said. “It has been happening for a long time.”
“What will happen over the next 30 years?” he added.
Regent Danae Davis of Milwaukee said it was critical to understand not only the budget situation in Wisconsin but also how budget deficits in other states are affecting public higher education.
“That is important to know, so we understand what it means in other states to be accessible and have quality and be affordable,” Davis said.
Regent David Walsh of Madison said that proposed cuts to the university were the result of a struggling economy and the current political environment. He said the challenge is to help lawmakers and other decision makers better understand how the university is Wisconsin’s main economic engine.
“This is a strong institution,” Walsh said. “Our job is to do something about the economy, and we need to do it now.”
Several chancellors shared with the board how they are planning for cuts in the next state budget.
Chancellor Richard Wells of UW-Oshkosh said that two academic programsmusic therapy and pre-engineeringwere slated for elimination, as are the men’s wrestling and tennis programs. He added that there will likely be larger classes, fewer course sections and fewer elective courses at his campus.
Chancellor John Wiley of UW-Madison said his preliminary plans include reducing administrative costs by $5 million; holding open or eliminating instructional and non-instructional positions; increasing the size of lecture classes, discussion sections and instructional labs; reducing support for or closing several departments, centers, institutes and programs; and eliminating more than 100 courses least critical to degree completion.
Gottschalk said the regents will hold a number of listening sessions this month to get feedback from students, faculty, parents, alumni, community leaders and others about how budget cuts could affect their campuses and communities.
The first two sessions are scheduled for Tuesday (March 11) in Eau Claire and Thursday (March 13) in Green Bay. Additional sessions are planned for Stevens Point on March 25, Waukesha (Milwaukee metropolitan area) on March 26 and Madison on March 31.
Gottschalk added that he has spoken with his counterpart at the State University of New York system (SUNY), which has also taken major budget cuts in recent years and launched a strategic planning process to plan for the future. He said he would like to develop a similar process for the UW System.
Lyall concluded her remarks by reiterating how the proposed 2003-05 state budget poses a major challenge for the UW System, which will require “balanced choices and continued investment in our human resources, even if there must be fewer of them.”
“Great universities are built gradually over many decades, and once dismantled, cannot be rebuilt quickly, if at all,” she said. “I believe it is our duty to conscientiously seek and maintain that balance so that at the end of the coming biennium we are smaller but better, not smaller and poorer.”
Regents learn how technology may affect future teaching and learning
Academia could soon take the lead when it comes to defining the technology of the future, a strategic futurist told the board during a presentation on Thursday.
During a presentation on future and current academic technologies, Wayne Hodgins, director of worldwide learning strategies at Autodesk, Inc., told the board that today’s technology is largely dedicated to managing and storing information. The next wave of technology will likely be designed around changing how the mind can process information, he said.
Whereas “virtual reality,” a technology that replaces what people actually experience, was once touted as the next big development, Hodgins predicts that future technologies will center around what he called “augmented reality,” which allows people to use tools to enhance real experiences.
Hodgins said universities could have more control over what technologies are developed by determining what processes should be automated in the future. As an example, Hodgins held up a digital pen, which records an individual’s handwriting as electronic information, allowing information to be reused after being recorded just a single time.
Similar innovations should not be driven by what technology is available, but rather by the processes that teachers and learners want automated, he said.
“Within our grasp, is the dream of personalized learning,” he said, adding that more and more information will soon be available in a form that allows a user to learn through digital, on-demand learning.
Hodgins suggested that the university could benefit from forming and observing a “Next Generation” advisory board, made up of members under the age of 16. These learners, he said, are the ones who will use future technologies in their higher education, and they are quick to determine the tools they consider valuable.
Hodgins also suggested that the board should entertain ideas about how learning will occur years into the future while deliberating the university’s budget in the coming months.
“Understanding the long-term view helps you make decisions right now,” he said.
After Hodgins predicted how technology might impact the university in the future, three faculty and staff members demonstrated how innovative technologies are currently being used within the UW System.
Greg Moses, professor of engineering and engineering physics at UW-Madison, demonstrated how he uses software known as “e-Teach” to deliver lessons to his students.
The software uses online technology to eliminate the need for traditional, face-to-face lecture-style courses, he said. Instead, students learn as part of a team in a hands-on lab experience, resulting in higher-quality interactions among students and faculty, he said.
The change has made lectures less of an “event,” and more of a resource, like textbooks, that students can use in well-rounded learning, he said.
“Technology is not a silver bullet,” he said. “You have to have a plan and then figure out what technology can do for you.”
Robert Kaleta, an instructional innovator in the Learning Technology Center at UW-Milwaukee, told the board about a developing course model, known as “hybrid” or “blended” courses.
Much of the learning in these courses is online, reducing the need for traditional classroom time, Kaleta said. Hybrid courses combine the best elements of face-to-face instruction, such as rapport between faculty and students, and the best elements of distance learning, such as the ability to work anytime, anywhere, he said.
“Students are spending more time in active learning,” Kaleta said. “They’re spending less time listening in a lecture hall, and spending more time actually doing things.”
Kaleta emphasized that faculty say these courses result in better learning, understanding and retention on the part of students, while allowing professors to teach in new ways that encourage more interaction and discussion.
Glenda Morgan, a learning technology analyst for UW System Learning and Information Technology, told the board that faculty use of course management software to teach classes entirely or partially online is doubling from year to year.
Morgan, who used a grant to study how UW System faculty use such software, said online tools to teach and manage courses are currently being used in more than 5,100 courses across the UW System, impacting more than 126,000 students.
She told the board that faculty are more likely to use such programs as the available software becomes more user-friendly, as more training is offered for faculty and students, and as the UW System provides better infrastructure and support for the programs.
The highlight of Thursday’s Board of Regents’ Education Committee meeting was a presentation from Provosts Peter Spear of UW-Madison and Rebecca Martin of UW-Parkside, who discussed the implications of state budget cuts on academic offerings.
Spear and Martin shared with regents the processes by which their campuses are making decisions on which programs to cut and which programs to spare.
Spear began by noting that academic programs are routinely reviewed on a 10-year cycle, and many programs must be reviewed in the process of accreditation. The campus also monitors programs for low enrollments and when appropriate, takes steps to eliminate programs that show little demand.
Spear said ongoing budget cuts during the past decade have already taken their toll on UW-Madison’s academic offerings. Since 1994, 37 degree and major programs have been eliminated, and another 25 programs have been consolidated into nine programs. In all, there has been a net reduction of 40 majors at UW-Madison out of a total of 400 degree programs, representing a 10 percent reduction. Academic offerings that have been eliminated, for example, include bachelor’s degrees in Greek, business education and nutrition, and master’s degrees in geology, geophysics, business statistics and ocean engineering.
In the mid-1990s, UW-Madison lost 250 faculty positions and had begun recently to rebuild those positions back into the budget. However, with the cuts the campus has taken this year and the projected $23 million cut looming for next year, Spear predicted that those faculty positions will again be lost, resulting in lost courses, lost majors and bigger sections.
Until this year, Spear said, the campus has sought to absorb the cuts centrally. But flexible programming funding is gone, he added, and the campus administration accounts for just 3 percent of the budget, so cuts of 5-8 percent for the colleges and departments appear inevitable.
Martin said UW-Parkside is facing equally difficult choices. At present, the campus offers 29 majors and three master’s degree programs.
“Our program array is limited and we won’t be a viable university” if we drop too many majors, she said.
“We can’t continue to stretch resources,” she told regents, adding that her office has begun an evaluation process so academic programs can be judged based on objective criteria rather than subjective measures.
The education committee also had first readings on a new bachelor’s degree in web and digital media development at UW-Stevens Point and a Ph.D. in health sciences at UW-Milwaukee.
Business and Finance Committee
Members of the Regents’ Business and Finance Committee Thursday discussed both short- and long-term ideas in response to the budget presentation.
In the short term, regents wondered if legislators were open to reducing the $250 million cut or considering replacement of the money for student financial aid with GPR instead of student auxiliary funds. Regent Jay L. Smith suggested that in the long term there needs to be a conversation with the state about a three-decades long decline in state support for the university and determine if the trend lines were the will of the state.
Smith pointed out that some strategic planning had begun last year with the work of the Business and Finance Committee in examining options for building the resource base of the university. He suggested that new board members should receive the documents from this study. Regent Danae Davis suggested broad composition of any committee working on strategic planning, and the committee discussed the 21st Century study model. Committee members recommended including legislators in the process.
Deborah A. Durcan, UW System vice president for finance, shared with the committee several studies comparing other state responses to budget challenges and the new funding model being used by Colorado, which gives students a $4,000 grant instead of funding institutions. She also reported that U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-California, introduced tuition cost-control legislation this week that would limit tuition increases to no more than two times the consumer price index.
In other business, the committee:
- Recommended authorizing UW-Madison to recruit a new women’s basketball coach.
- Met Darrell Bazzell, the new vice chancellor for administration at UW-Madison.
Physical Planning and Funding Committee
Nancy Ives, UW System assistant vice president for capital planning and budget, reported to members of the Physical Planning and Funding Committee Thursday that the State Building Commission approved approximately $1 million for various projects at its February meeting. Of that amount, only $24,000 is general purpose revenue (GPR); the remainder comes from gifts and grants.
Ives also reported that the UW System received four awards from the Building Commission in its annual awards ceremony. Gov. Jim Doyle presented the awards to the following UW System recipients:
- HGA, Inc. of Milwaukee for excellence in architectural design of the UW Whitewater Williams Center & Fieldhouse addition;
- Berners-Schober Associates of Green Bay for excellence in engineering design of the UW-Oshkosh Halsey Science Center renovation;
- Mared Mechanical of Milwaukee for excellence in construction of the UW-Milwaukee Chemistry Building retrofit; and
- UW-Madison Facilities Engineer Jack Wunder for excellence in service.
Ives announced that the Building Commission will meet March 18-19 for capital budget planning. While significantly less GPR bonding is expected to be available for building projects, Ives said the UW System will continue to ask the commission to respect the UW System’s priorities for the money that is available.
In other business, the committee heard a campus development plan update from UW-Parkside Chancellor John P. Keating. He emphasized the campus’ need for larger classroom space, renovated fine arts and consolidated science space, and solutions for overcrowded library and student union space.
In other business, the committee approved the following resolutions:
- Authority to accept the gift of a facility on the UW-Parkside campus from K. R. Imaging, Inc., for use as the UW-Parkside Student Health and Counseling Center.
- Authority for officers of the Board of Regents to grant easements on UW-Madison’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station land to the city of Madison to facilitate reconstruction of Old Sauk Road.
The Board of Regents will resume its March 2003 meeting on Friday (March 7) in Room 1920 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus starting at 9 a.m.