We recognize the seriousness of the budget constraints facing the state of Wisconsin and we appreciate the difficult job that the Governor and his staff faced in balancing the 2003-05 budget.

At the same time, the cuts presented for the University of Wisconsin System are of an unprecedented magnitude and come on the heels of about $50 million in cuts for this fiscal year.

We appreciate the Governor’s proposal on tuition which will help mitigate these cuts—and we especially appreciate his addition of financial aid to help offset tuition hikes for our less fortunate students.

But even with tuition increases, the university system will be left with a yawning hole in its budget. And there are no easy ways to close this gap—especially given the fact that demand for our services is rising while state support is falling.

As Regents, we take very seriously our role as stewards of public higher education for this state. And we have a system that is in jeopardy of becoming less accessible, less affordable, of lower quality, or all three.

Over the coming months, my fellow Regents, President Lyall and I will be traveling the state in a series of listening sessions on our campuses to hear from those who will be affected by these cuts – our faculty, staff and students and our campus communities. We are especially concerned about maintaining our capacity to help the state’s economy recover. In the long run, growing the economy is the only way the state can recover economically.

The hemorrhaging of state support for higher education must end with the Governor’s budget. If the legislature accepts his cuts but denies tuition offsets, they will set us on a path to fiscal emergency and break a trust with Wisconsin citizens that has endured for more than 150 years.