Once again, thanks to all of our former regents for their dedication and hard work, and for their commitment to this outstanding university. We hope you will stay engaged and we look forward to working with you through the challenging months ahead.
The budgetary challenges facing the UW System were reinforced in Governor Doyle’s remarks to us yesterday. We very much appreciate the fact that he took time from his schedule to join us here. I think it illustrates his high regard for this university and his commitment to it. I was especially heartened by his heartfelt and historic commitment to the university.
At the same time, he is facing some daunting obstacles as he seeks to make the state’s ends meet. Recent fiscal estimates have shown that the state’s budget for 2002-03, the current fiscal year, is almost $400 million out of balance. The governor has proposed, and asked the legislature to consider, cutting $161.5 million in state spending for this year. The good news is that he has exempted the university’s instruction and research budget from that cut – and we are very grateful for that. The bad news is that we will be asked to cut an additional $6.9 million from the institutional support line of our budget with five months remaining in our fiscal year, should the legislature approve the Governor’s plan. This we will do with no adverse impact on enrollments.
We need to keep this news in some context. States throughout the nation are experiencing the same difficulties as ours and many public universities are being asked to cut their budgets in the midst of the academic year. Wisconsin isn’t alone. At the same time, with massive deficits looming for Wisconsin in the next biennium, we have every reason to believe that our university’s fiscal condition will get worse before it gets better.
Yesterday, we were briefed by the president on the UW System’s Accountability Report. In a sense, we got our grades yesterday and they were pretty good. We met or exceeded our targets in 11 of the categories including access, retention and graduation rates. And we noted areas in which we need some improvement, particularly in providing a learning environment that fosters the ability to function in a dynamic world community and in increasing our access rate and our success rate for students of color.
Our funding situation will directly affect our ability to meet and achieve these future goals. It is interesting to note that this past year we met 11 of our 20 accountability goals. Last year, in 2002, we met or exceeded 13 of those goals and in 2001, we met or exceeded 14 of our 20 benchmark goals.
Our capacity to meet our benchmarks is related to our capacity to mount programs and provide the student services that will help us achieve them. Reduced funding reduces our capacities. This trend concerns me because it is a warning sign that budget cuts and a GPR student support base that is $1,000 below the national average are taking their toll.
The irony is that our Accountability Report stands as a model, not only for our own state, but for the nation. As we talk with our Congressional delegation about the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, we are urging them to look at our accountability report as a federal model – a way to benchmark the progress of higher education institutions across the land on important measures like retention and graduation rates.
We appreciate the observations from ACE President David Ward on the Higher Education Reauthorization Act and we appreciate the UW System’s recommendations on this legislation that President Lyall has forwarded to Congress. The letter from President Lyall is in your packet.
We welcome this reauthorization process and the state budget process as opportunities to, once again, examine what higher education means to this state and this nation. I hope my fellow Regents and the chancellors will get engaged in these conversations on our campuses, in our capitol and in Washington, DC.