MADISON – A proposed constitutional amendment that would limit state spending could force the University of Wisconsin System to drastically increase tuition or severely reduce the number of students it admits each year, the Board of Regents learned on Friday (March 10).
Known as the Taxpayer’s Protection Amendment, or TPA, the bill is intended to stimulate Wisconsin’s economic growth by creating a more favorable tax environment, said one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West-Bend, whose district includes UW-Washington County.
“A lower-level of taxation is equated with economic growth,” Grothman said. He said the amendment to the state constitution would cap state spending at levels that are “not wildly less than what we’re taking in right now. In the first year, you don’t notice a lot, but over 30 or 40 years, it can have a significant impact on the state budget.”
Grothman added he believes that the bill, in the form of a constitutional amendment, would protect taxpayers from consequences of state growth.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all to put the people in charge,” he said. “I don’t consider this a particularly radical notion; I just consider this a common sense kind of thing.”
But because the spending limits would mean less state tax support for the university’s educational mission and for buildings and facilities on UW campuses, the bill is likely to have “unintended consequences,” said Regent Charles Pruitt of Shorewood.
“If this passes, we are almost certainly going to have to seek dramatic tuition increases, and/or, cut back enrollment,” Pruitt said.
Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler of Oshkosh pointed out that one analysis, outlined to the Board on Thursday by Andrew Reschovsky, a professor at UW-Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs, showed that if the TPA had been in effect over the last ten years, the UW would have received $200 million less in support from the state last year. Grothman said that was just one calculation.
“I don’t believe it would have as big an impact on the university as some other things,” Grothman said. “I do believe that the university, like other government agencies, can sometimes do as well with a little bit less.”
Tim Fiocci, legislative assistant to Rep. Jeff Wood, R-Chippewa Falls, the bill’s other sponsor, pointed out that the bill exempts tuition and fees at state colleges and universities from the formula it outlines to determine how much revenue the state could collect and spend.
If the university would grow beyond those spending limits, Fiocci said, the university would be responsible for paying additional costs.
“The real effect is that you’re putting it on the backs of students, instead of the state,” Regent President David G. Walsh of Madison responded. “It’s telling the university that from now on it’s going to be paid for by tuition.”
The university tuition and fees were exempted because the sponsors understood that taking in more money from additional students could change spending allowed for other state programs, Fiocci said.
“We didn’t want to create a disincentive for you to admit more students,” Fiocci said. He added, however, that some members of the Assembly would like to see tuition and fees included in the formula because they believe spending by the university is excessive.
Regents asked the presenters about how the TPA might impact the university’s future and current goals. Regent Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa asked Grothman about his hopes for his alma mater, UW-Madison, in 10 years.
“I wouldn’t expect the quality of education to decline; I wouldn’t expect the number of students who go through the university to decline,” Grothman responded, adding that he believes health care and compensation for state and university employees are generous. “The number of people working here in nonteaching positions would not be as great. I think that it is going to look a little bit different 20 years from now.”
Grothman said that a well-educated workforce should attract businesses and workers to Wisconsin, but despite what he said might be an “excess” of college graduates in the state, that’s not the case.
“Despite all the money we’re throwing at this, our people are leaving, and that’s sad,” Grothman said.
Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie noted that the TPA, as introduced in the Legislature, includes a provision that would count funding for university capital projects supported by state bonding as revenue, a provision that could “cripple” the university.
“This is a real problem for the university, and I ask you to change this,” Loftus said.
“The bonding will be changed,” Grothman replied. “I’ve known all along that we’ll have to change some of those provisions.”
Grothman acknowledged that the university has not received favorable amounts of support from the state in recent budgets, but that on the whole, he believes most people in Wisconsin can afford a college education.
“You guys have fared worse than just about anybody has fared in the last few years, but that was largely made up with tuition increases,” he said. “Even if we have to up the tuition again, we are a long way away from saying that tuition is unaffordable. Unless their parents kick them out of house, anyone in the state can end up with a four-year degree for a reasonable amount of money. Almost anyone can get a student loan.”
Fiocci said he believes Rep. Wood would support additional efforts to promote the affordability and accessibility of education through increased cooperation between the UW and the state’s technical college system, especially toward serving lower-income or nontraditional students.
Regent Brent Smith, president of the Wisconsin Technical College System, noted that the two systems are making a lot of progress in this regard, especially related to efforts to increase the number of Wisconsin citizens who have bachelor’s degrees.
“How can we grow the university under [the TPA],” Smith asked?
Grothman said he believes that Wisconsin is turning out enough college graduates, but that the problem is that graduates are leaving the state.
“I think the university could focus more on degrees where the business community feels there’s a shortage,” he said.
Student Regent Chris Semenas of UW-Parkside asked Grothman if the TPA would support the Regents’ interest in providing additional financial aid to students from low- and moderate income families
“Students who are going to be affected by student loans are the ones who come from lower-income families,” Semenas said. “If students work hard, shouldn’t they have the ability to have financial aid provided for them?”
Grothman suggested that many students might be more able to afford college if they made different choices, such as to save money, work while they attend school, or attend public universities, which he said are less expensive than private colleges. He said he is troubled by the degree to which “young, naïve people” accumulate large amounts of student loans and credit card debt, but don’t realize how difficult it is to pay off those loans in the future.
“Those loans are not necessarily the result of necessity. Those loans are out there because it’s so easy to get those loans,” Grothman said. “It’s almost like they have a second mortgage when they get out.”
Grothman said part of what determines college costs is whether a student chooses to attend college close to home, and the kind of lifestyle they lead while in college. He suggested that the university might do more to encourage students to get degrees in fields in which they can be highly employable after they, graduate and that the university should study why some students from low-income backgrounds are able to find ways to afford college.
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee said that the highest demand for student loans comes from families who must have the loan assistance to afford college. “Those parents cannot afford to send their child to school in any other manner,” Salas said.
Walsh, too, predicted that student loans are the major reason these students are able to attend the UW, and said this was the first time he had heard anyone dispute that college was unaffordable in Wisconsin.
Regent Gerard Randall of Milwaukee thanked Grothman for his willingness to look at alternative funding models for programs that receive state support, as well as for his work on the state’s K-12 system.
“Do we need to be as full a part of state government as we are now?” Randall asked.
Randall said that during his time on the Board of Regents, state tax support for the UW has declined, but pressure to expand in research and provide more capacity for students to attend has increased dramatically.
Grothman responded that he would be willing to consider alternative funding models between the state and the university.
Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville asked Grothman to share information about the state of Colorado’s experience with similar limits on state spending.
“This has proven to me that we should have more dialogues like this,” Axtell said. “I’ve learned more about your position than I knew yesterday.”
Grothman said Colorado’s budget challenges stemmed from two “mistakes” – building a base spending amount from a prior year’s budget, and increases in the budget for K-12 education in greater amounts than the rest of the state.
“Things are not that bad in Colorado,” Grothman said. “The mistakes they made in Colorado, we won’t repeat.”
Walsh said that the university would very likely have to institute enrollment caps if the TPA were to become Wisconsin law. “If we get any further down, there’s no meat on the bones,” Walsh said. “This will result in higher tuition, because if we want to expand, we’ll have to pay for it.”
Walsh asked if the Legislature would consider the university in a different way when it comes to state tax support if the TPA becomes law. He noted that Grothman indicated the point of the TPA was to improve the business climate in Wisconsin.
“Where is our role in doing that?” Walsh asked. “We think our future, the University of Wisconsin, is part of the economic solution.”
Grothman replied that he doesn’t believe the TPA would cause the university as an economic engine to suffer.
Grothman said he expects to hold at least one more invitation-only hearing on the proposed amendment. Walsh asked that the university be invited to any future hearings, and thanked Grothman for his candor in talking with the Regents.
“We either agree, or we disagree,” Walsh said. “Hopefully, we’ll continue to communicate.”
Regents approve policy to guide resident assistant activities on campus
Resident assistants in the UW System have the same rights to lead or participate in activities on campus as other students, under a policy affirmed Friday by the full Board of Regents.
The systemwide policy provides direction for all UW campuses in establishing guidelines for the kinds of activities in which resident assistants can participate. Resident assistants, sometimes known as housefellows or resident advisers, are students who live and work in campus residence halls and are paid to supervise other students.
The policy reads:
Resident Assistants are expected to work with student residents to create an open, inclusive, and supportive residential community. At the same time, because RAs are students themselves, they are encouraged to participate in campus activities and organizations. As such, RAs may participate in, organize, and lead any meetings or other activities, within their rooms, floors or residence halls, or anywhere else on campus, to the same extent as other students. However, they may not use their positions to pressure, coerce, or inappropriately influence student residents to attend or participate.
In a statement to the Board, Reilly said the policy is intended to balance the responsibilities that resident assistants have as university employees, with the opportunities offered to them on campus as students themselves.
The statement noted that the policy would be applied in conjunction with existing rules and regulations that guide the kinds of activities and speech in which students, faculty and staff can engage on campus. Those include speech that creates a discriminatory or hostile environment, activities that may interfere with access to facilities or education, or certain kinds of political speech.
Campuses will be required to include information about the policy when training new RAs, and each campus must develop a process through which students can complain if they believe an RA violates the policy. The complaint process would allow students who live in residence halls to express their opinions if they believe their rights are not being respected.
Randall wondered who would be the arbiter of what is considered coercion or pressure.
Some guidance could be drawn from the principles developed by the working group of residence life professionals and students from UW campuses, Reilly said.
“We thought it would be better if each campus could look at the complaint, if a complaint is brought forward,” Reilly said. “I think we’re trying to walk a fine line here.”
Reilly said campuses will be encouraged to work together and share information about the kinds of complaint processes they develop.
Regent Judy Crain of Green Bay said the debate over resident assistants elevated discussion about the roles of RAs, which she said is important both in selecting RAs, and for giving them a better understanding of policies.
Salas it will be especially important to communicate the new policy to resident assistants.
“They’re not like any other students,” Salas said. “They’re our representatives. The relationship that they form with students in those halls is unique.”
UW honors women of color for outstanding contributions to education
The UW System honored 16 recipients of the 2006 Outstanding Women of Color in Education Award, an annual award given to students, faculty and staff to recognize their contributions to diversity and the status of women within the state’s public university system, UW System President Kevin P. Reilly told the Board on Friday.
The 11th annual Outstanding Women of Color in Education Awards were presented Saturday, March 4, during a ceremony on the UW-Eau Claire campus. The award and the events were jointly sponsored by the UW System Women’s Studies Consortium, and the Offices of Academic Diversity and Development and the UW-Eau Claire Women’s Studies Program.
“These honors go to UW faculty, staff, students, or community members who make significant contributions to diversity, and who advance the status of women within our university,” Reilly said. “The awards honor our commitment to improving the status and climate for women, especially women of color, and to achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves in Plan 2008.”
Reilly congratulated all this year’s award recipients, and recognized Vicki Washington, interim Assistant Vice President for Academic Diversity and Development, and UW System’s nominee for the award.
Reilly also updated the Board about the first meeting of the President’s Council on Diversity, which met to “set the compass” for its work this year.
“I’ll look to the Council for advice on how we can advance projects and programs we already have in place, as well as for guidance about what kinds of strategies we might employ to maximize student and workplace diversity,” Reilly said. He said one of those efforts will be the Equity Scorecard, a tool institutions can use to identify what steps they need to take to achieve equity and excellence for all students on campus.
“We’re quite fortunate that so many distinguished individuals have agreed to work with us,” he said.
Regent Danae Davis, the Board’s liaison to the Council, said the council itself is diverse, not only in terms of race and ethnicity, but also age, geography, perspective, and profession.
She outlined four of the Council’s goals: to maximize student diversity, to build workplace diversity, to promote diverse perspectives to advance economic groth and vitality across the state, and to enable the UW to be a national leader and champion for diversity in all of its dimensions.
“It is clear that this council has high expectations for action and results,” Davis said. “We want to focus on not just counting heads, but making all heads count.”
Davis added that campuses are committed to the Equity Scorecard process, which she described as “inquiry learning” toward creating equity and excellence for all members of the campus community.
“This process has upsides from the very beginning, and for the long haul,” Davis said. “It changes our whole mindset on what we are looking for.”
Reilly also told the Board that three staff members traveled to Indiana to learn more about the 21st Century Scholars program, one model on which the proposed Wisconsin Covenant program might be based.
UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Richard Wells, who accompanied UW staff to Indianapolis for the fact-finding mission, told the Board what they learned during meetings with the state’s commissioner of higher education.
“It’s beyond just signing a pledge – there’s a lot to it,” Wells said.
Indiana’s program has been developed over 16 years, he said. A key feature is a set of regional support centers that help students and parents, host summer programs, provide information about the program, and seek to enroll as many students as possible.
The Indiana officials told the UW team that tracking students during their participation in the program is essential, and suggested that an “e-transcript” for high school students would be helpful, Wells said.
The 21st Century Scholars program also includes support for parents of high school students, as well as support for scholars while they are in college.
“You want to keep moving these folks through successfully through graduation,” Wells said.
High school students in Indiana are automatically enrolled in a college-preparatory curriculum that would qualify them for the 21st Century Scholars program; in fact, Wells said, students who do not want to take the more-challenging courses must opt out, with the permission of their parents.
“They have to explain that they understand what they’re giving up by not staying with that program,” Wells said.
The Indiana officials advised the UW staff not to use grade point average as a baseline requirement, but to focus on providing access to programs that ensure college readiness.
Wells noted that Indiana’s program applies to all post-secondary institutions, including technical colleges, private colleges, and public universities.
“What’s important is that [students] get a good college-prep high school curriculum, and that they get though it,” Wells said.
The citizenship requirement is on an honor system, in which students affirm that they have kept their pledge to be good citizens, Wells added.
Regents expressed interest in meeting with Stan Jones, Indiana’s state commissioner of higher education and a former state legislator who championed the 21st Century Scholars program, as they consider a similar effort here in Wisconsin.
UW staff will continue to work with President Reilly in studying the next steps in creating a similar pledge program in Wisconsin, including conversations with the Department of Public Instruction. More action could come before the Board in the next several months.
“The momentum here is going to come from the Board of Regents,” Walsh said.
Finally, Reilly congratulated Regent and State Superintendent of the Department of Public Instriction Elizabeth Burmaster on receiving the Senator Paul Simon Award for Outstanding Advocacy for World Languages and International Studies. The award is given to an individual or group from outside the language teaching profession who has been a leader in promoting language learning and international understanding.
President’s Report to the Board
Regent President Walsh reminded the Board on Friday that he and Executive Senior Vice President Donald J. Mash appeared before the Assembly Colleges and Universities Committee last month to provide information and context about the Regents’ proposal to increase access for Wisconsin students by generating additional revenue by more competitively pricing nonresident tuition.
“It was clear that we don’t always get the message across, but there were some very good questions asked,” Walsh said. “We had some very strong support from members of the committee for what they described as a very good business decision, and [they said] that it was logical.”
Walsh also noted that a bill that would have placed limits on executive salaries and changed the Regents decision on nonresident tuition failed to pass the committee, garnering only three of 12 votes. “That was encouraging,” Walsh said.
Walsh also updated the Board about the UW System’s actions following a recently issued Legislative Audit Bureau report on UW employees who have been convicted of felonies.
Walsh reminded the Board that President Reilly requested the audit after some criticism over three faculty members who were convicted of serious crimes, and said the UW is following up on three recommendations in the audit report. For those still employed, no connections have been found between the employee’s jobs and the crimes for which they were convicted, Walsh said.
“Suffice it to say, we are working on those recommendations, and we won’t have any problems with them,” Walsh said. “The bottom line is that we are satisfied that we are complying with state law.”
UW-Madison will complete a review of employees on its campus by next week, he said.
Walsh said the UW is working with the state Office of State Employment Relations to establish some standards for performing background checks on those applying for UW employment.
“I don’t think we’re going to be able to do that, just because of differences between campuses and kinds of jobs,” Walsh said. “The idea is to find some uniformity so the public has some comfort.”
Regent Michael Spector of Milwaukee updated the Board about the input that is being gathered from shared faculty and academic staff governance groups about the Board’s proposed policy on discipline. Spector said he is hearing comments, concern and suggestions, but that a recent meeting with faculty representatives from around the system was a positive exchange.
Spector noted that the UW-Madison Faculty Senate voted against the policy at a meeting last week. Faculty objections to the proposal included lack of clarity about penalties for not self-reporting criminal behavior, as well as how felonious behavior is defined. Some faculty perceived the proposed as an attack on tenure and academic freedom, Spector said.
“It is not,” Spector clarified. “They’ll come up with some more specific suggestions, and we’ll keep going through it.
The Board expects to take action on the proposed policy on discipline at its May meeting.
Regents approve capital projects, UWM differential tuition
The Board voted Friday to approve a differential tuition rate for UW-Milwaukee’s School of Architecture and Urban Planning, which would use the tuition to pay for an upgrade of computer workstations used to train students in the high-tech field.
Rosenzweig reminded the Board that the differential tuition fee in question replaces one fee that students already pay for laptop-computer based instruction, and that the new amount may actually save money for many students.
Salas recalled that when UWM students spoke to the Board about differential tuition several months ago, Regents had expressed concern that state support in the form of general purpose revenue (GPR) should be made available for educational expenses.
While other proposals, like ideas to supplement faculty salaries with differential tuition, have not come before the Board, Salas said he finds ideas like these “intolerable.” State support should be made available for such core university operations, he said.
“We just aren’t getting the GPR money for these higher cost programs,” Axtell said. “The money’s got to come from some place. It should be GPR that’s invested in higher-quality education. If we have any other alternative, we should look into it.”
Randall said such differential tuition proposals are a “slippery slope.”
“There will be more proposals like these,” Randall said. “At some point, we’re going to have to say no to these differential tuition requests that really ought to be GPR-supported.”
Regent Vice President Mark Bradley of Wausau said the Regents are likely to see UW campuses proposing more alternative bachelor degree programs in the future, like one considered on Thursday by the Board’s Education Committee. The Committee on Thursday deferred votes on a bachelor’s of science and a master’s of science in Information and Communication Technologies at UW-Stout to gather more information.
“We’ve asked the campuses to think out-of-the-box on ways to achieve our goal, which is to increase baccalaureate degrees across this state,” Bradley said. “Programs will look different than more-traditional programs.”
Regent Thomas Loftus of Sun Prairie said he would be asking staff to prepare a memo on the steps it would take to transform UW-Waukesha into a four-year campus.
The full Board approved resolutions that:
- Authorized recruitment of a Chancellor at UW-La Crosse. Regent Bradley noted that the entire campus and community is affected when a chancellor decides to leave, and expressed his gratitude to those individuals who agree to serve as interim chancellor during times of transition. In closed session, the Board voted to approve the appointment of Elizabeth Hitch as interim chancellor at UW-La Crosse upon the departure of current Chancellor Doug Hastad;
- Authorized UW-Madison to implement a master’s of science in Agroecology;
- Approved revised Faculty Personnel Rules for UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay. Chancellor Bruce Shepard of UW-Green Bay said changes to his campus’ rules didn’t affect the university’s collegial responsibilities. He said he brought it to the Board following a unanimous vote by the campus’ Faculty Senate;
- Approved the appointment of June Martin Perry to the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Oversight and Advisory Committee; and
- Granted authority to increase the budget of the UW-Madison Camp Randall Stadium Expansion/Renovation Project using gift funds to improve circulation and safety issues;
- Granted approval for UW-Madison to transfer the name Fred A. Ogg from the current Ogg Hall to the New Residence Hall at 835 West Dayton Street;
- Granted authority to plan the UW-Madison Warehouse Remodeling Arts Relocation project, which will renovate space to be used by art programs;
- Granted authority to purchase the newly constructed Southwest Hall at UW-Platteville. This six-story residence hall will house 380 students and relieve existing residence hall space shortage and provide for student population growth due to the Tri State Initiative;
- Granted authority to sell the American Suzuki House property at UW-Stevens Point. Sale proceeds will be used to partially meet campus budget reductions;
- Granted authority to purchase property at UW‑Stout. This land will eventually be developed into a parking lot to meet parking needs of the north campus;
- Granted approval to construct various maintenance and repair projects at UW-La Crosse, UW Madison, UW-Oshkosh, Parkside UW-River Falls, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Whitewater; and
- Adopted a revised policy related to naming or dedicating University Facilities that will shorten the length of time needed to obtain a naming approval.
- The Board voted to not reconsider a repair project at UW-Whitewater.
The Board of Regents will hold its next meeting Thursday and Friday, April 6-7, 2006 on the UW-Green Bay campus.
Related: Read March 9 (day 1) news summary