The UW System was one of the first university systems in the country to start issuing public stakeholders reports. Every year since 1993, we have issued a UW System accountability report showing our progress on a series of indicators ranging from access rates and faculty workloads to graduation rates, credits-to-degree, research funding, facilities maintenance, and employer, alumni, and student satisfaction ratings. Last year, the report added several new indicators measuring our use of instructional technology, study abroad opportunities for our students, undergraduate research opportunities, and “citizenship” learning by students.
Where possible, we benchmark ourselves against national or state measures, or against our own progress over time. We take a “balanced scorecard” approach, which recognizes that we serve multiple constituencies, some of whose expectations for us may conflict. Therefore, as you review the 2001 accountability report, I hope you will look not only at the individual indicators, but think about the overall picture they paint of the tradeoffs and balances that have been struck within a necessarily limited set of resources.
The report is presented in three sections: first, some indicators of the context in which we operated this past year and the resources available to carry out our mission; second, presentation of twenty performance measures and how they compare to national benchmarks or targets; and finally, a compendium of other UW System reports that provide more detail on these and many other aspects of our operations. Appendixes provide breakdowns by campus for many of the indicators as well.
There are two new features of this year’s report: (1) following your request last year, we have included a set of campus-specific benchmarks and measures. There are four indicators common to all campuses – performance related to enrollment targets; retention/graduation targets; student engagement in co-curricular activities including internships, practica, and volunteer work; and performance on targets related to credits to degree. Other indicators have been added by each campus to reflect its own particular goals as well; and (2) we report student ratings of various aspects of their learning experience taken from the new NSSE survey and compare these to our peers nationally.
Operational environment, 2000-2001
Our operational results reflect the demographic, economic, and political environment in which we operate. Demand for UW admission remained brisk last year, as a declining economy sent more students back to college in search of both degrees and professional certificates. The importance of serving these students was acknowledged in a biennial budget that provided $41 million in the second year for the Economic Stimulus Package to prepare 2,600 more graduates in high-demand, high-tech fields for the workforce. (As we now know, this amount has been halved by the proposed budget cuts.) We continue to diversify our funding sources: GPR (General Purpose Revenue) now provides 32 percent of the total budget, while tuition (17 percent), gifts and grants (30 percent), and program revenue earned from operations (21 percent) provide the rest.
A UW education remains affordable compared to other states and universities. The average cost of attendance at a UW institution is about 17 percent below the national average for four-year universities and takes about 15 percent of median family income in Wisconsin compared to 20 percent nationally.
Instructional workload has generally remained constant over the past several years with faculty teaching 60 percent of total student credit hours, instructional academic staff teaching 32 percent, and graduate assistants handling 8 percent. This pattern reflects the loss of 500 faculty positions in the budget cuts of the mid-1990s. The 1999-2001 budget prevented further erosion of faculty positions, but further erosions could occur if the proposed base cut for 2001-03 increases.
External research funding rose by $100 million last year, reflecting a remarkable flood of research breakthroughs in biotechnology, genetics, agrigenetics, engineering materials, and a host of other 21st century fields. Our research generates thousands of good-paying jobs statewide and helps the state repatriate a portion of the funds Wisconsin sends to Washington every year. UW research alone generated more than a $1 billion economic impact throughout the state, making it one of the state’s most important “industries,” and a key to growing future incomes in Wisconsin.
2001-02 Accountability Indicators
A tabular summary of each indicator, the target/benchmark for that measure, and our performance in relation to the target/benchmark is provided at the beginning of the report.
With regard to Goal 1: Ensure widespread access and increase the pool of eligible applicants – the four performance indicators show that we have done well at maintaining access (“service rates”) for traditional Wisconsin high school graduates; increasing participation in pre-college programs; and expanding distance education opportunities statewide. We enroll 32 percent of all Wisconsin high school graduates somewhere in the System (well above the national average of 22 percent); pre-college programs served more than 8,000 disadvantaged students last year, up from 5,000 the year before; and more than 17,000 students were served by distance education courses, up from 10,000 the year before. Enrollments and degrees granted to students of color rose 8 percent, but we remain challenged to increase service to non-traditional students. Last year saw a modest increase of 1.4 percent in nontraditional students systemwide. I expect to see that rise again as a result of the economic recession.
Goal 2: Increase persistence and graduation rates – the three indicators show that both second-year retention rates (78.8 percent) and six-year graduation rates (60.5 percent) exceed their national benchmarks of 72 percent and 48 percent respectively. The second-year persistence rate for students of color (71.6 percent) is at the national average but continues slightly below the persistence rate for the UW system as a whole. We have challenged ourselves to meet new benchmarks by increasing our second-year persistence rate to 82 percent and our six-year graduation rate to 64 percent with the fall 2004 cohort of entering students. We must work diligently to stay on target over the next several years.
Finally, we used the new NSSE national survey to see how UW seniors rate the academic support, including academic advising, available on their campus. UW students rate our overall academic support services on a par with other institutions nationally (60 percent say campus emphasizes such services “quite a bit” or “very much”). But significantly fewer UW students (57 percent) say they received good or excellent academic advising. As you know, we have continued to make advising positions part of our biennial budget requests and have heard United Council tell us that this is one of the students’ top priorities as well. We will continue to work at this within the budget constraints we face. Success in improving advising can also be expected to impact future performance on persistence and graduation rates.
Goal 3: Improve learning competencies and foster critical thinking skills – these indicators from the NSSE show that a large share of UW seniors (75 percent or more) believe their education has helped them think critically and analytically, and apply theories/concepts to practical problems. These responses equal the national benchmark responses from other four-year institutions. UW students perform beyond the benchmarks in their pass rates on professional exams in nursing, CPA, MCAT, and GREs. Our challenge in this area is to ensure that our programs keep up with professional practice standards that are rising steadily and often have significant associated costs. The Education Committee is watching these trends closely and we must continue to balance enrollments with resources in these professional programs.
Goal 4: Provide students an ability to function in the global community -the number of UW bachelor’s degree recipients who studied abroad for a semester or longer rose from 6.6 percent a year ago to 8.2 percent last year (an increase of about 350 to a total of 3,212). While we’re moving in the right direction, at this rate of progress, it will take another decade before we reach the 25 percent benchmark. Our institutions continue to form partnerships and exchange agreements with universities abroad, but the current economic recession may be slowing this trend right now.
Certainly, the events of September 11 underscore more than ever the importance and value of understanding other cultures and other languages. The NSSE survey indicates that significantly fewer UW seniors compared to the national benchmark say that their education contributed to an understanding of people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds or afforded them the opportunity to converse with other students whose personal values, political opinions, or religious beliefs differ from their own. We continue to be challenged to find ways for more UW undergraduates to have a study abroad experience.
Goal 5: Provide student opportunities for guided research, mentoring, and citizenship learning – these indicators show that UW seniors have more opportunities for internships and field learning (78 percent), participate more in co-curricular activities (59 percent), and do more academic preparation outside of class in teams or other collaborative modes (62 percent) than their counterparts nationally, although we still lag in the proportion of undergraduates who have worked with a faculty member on a research project. However, significantly more UW students have done some form of community or volunteer service – perhaps not surprising for the state that provides the most Peace Corps volunteers and the most 4-H volunteer hours in the nation.
Finally, with respect to students’ use of instructional technology, UW seniors use e-mail more often than their national counterparts to communicate with an instructor, but use the Internet slightly less often to complete academic assignments. They match the national figure in the percent (71 percent) who feel that they have developed appropriate skills in computing and information technology skills.
Goal 6: Stewardship of resources – these indicators show that the UW System is meeting its targets for investment in faculty professional development (1.6 percent vs. 1 percent of payroll), for keeping administrative costs low (5.8 percent vs. 10.4 percent nationally), and for reducing the number of credits taken by undergraduates (137 vs. 139 last year and 140 the year before). Both faculty and student satisfaction with availability and quality of computing services is rising. Enrollments in collaborative degree programs involving two or more UW System institutions rose smartly, as did the number of articulation agreements with WTCS institutions. And systemwide management of major investments in computing software saved more than $9.5 million over individual campus licensures.
We continue to be challenged to upgrade our classrooms with technology that can support current on-line teaching materials and to reduce the maintenance backlog on our buildings. Despite over $30 million invested since 1995, about 60 percent of our instructional space still needs remodeling and technology improvements. As part of the 2001-03 capital budget, the Regents requested $275 million of GPR to start implementing the ten-year maintenance plan, but only $169 million was ultimately approved; some of that amount may be delayed as part of the state budget reductions now under way.
So, how are we doing overall? The quantitative answer is that we’ve met or exceeded our targets on 13 out of 20 measures; four measures show mixed progress (graduation gap for students of color, study abroad, undergraduate research opportunities, and student use of the internet for assignments); and three (improving academic advising, increasing students’ understanding of racial/ethnic differences, and building maintenance) give us a way to go.
Perhaps a better answer, however, is that all these dimensions of our constituents’ expectations challenge us to improve our performance for our students, to expand partnerships and collaborative work, and to advocate for the resources necessary to achieve these goals.
We should not take the good performance of our institutions for granted – it reflects the hard work of thousands of faculty and staff, the leadership of our chancellors, and public support for our mission. The budget cutting challenges facing us for next year will require maximum effort, if we are to maintain current performance levels and move forward.
I noted at the start that these accountability reports describe the tradeoffs we must make year-by-year: the substitution of instructional academic staff for faculty as budgets and positions were cut; the struggle to maintain our aging buildings and adapt them to modern instructional needs; the effort to increase retention/graduation rates by improving academic advising; the need to balance service to traditional and non-traditional students; the need to balance access and affordability – are all documented in these reports. The $51 million we will cut from our budget base in July will make these tradeoffs even more challenging. We must work together daily on. . . “achieving excellence.”