A leading higher education expert and former UW chancellor says colleges and universities must plan proactively to transform their institutions in response to challenging economic times.
Alan E. Guskin, former chancellor at UW-Parkside and president emeritus at Antioch University, spoke to the UW System Board of Regents during its February meeting that began Thursday morning (Feb. 5). He is co-director and senior scholar for the Project on the Future of Higher Education.
Guskin said sharp cutbacks in state funding for public higher education in Wisconsin and nationally must be considered a long-term problem requiring long-term solutions.
“The reality of life is not whether we will be successfulthe reality is whether we will continue to be successful,” Guskin said during his presentation, titled “Dealing with the Future Now: Principles for Creating a Vital Campus in a Climate of Restricted Resources.”
Guskin encouraged UW leaders to create a vision for the future focused on student learning, faculty quality and lower costs for students. He advocated changing how education is delivered and measuring student outcomes as the basis for undergraduate degrees. Finally, he suggested organizational changes that support the vision of the future, which could include zero-based budgeting and more efficient uses of technology.
Several regents praised Guskin’s presentation as one of the best they had heard on the future of higher education.
Accountability Report: UW making progress, facing challenges
The UW System’s latest accountability report outlines progress the university has made over the past year in serving students and the state but also highlights challenges related to decreased state funding.
“While our performance has improved over last year, I am concerned about the future,” said UW System President Katharine C. Lyall. “Many of the ways in which the current budget crisis will impact our students have not yet been felt on our campuses.”
Overall, the UW System met or exceeded 14 of 20 targets in 2003-04, according to the accountability report. The university had mixed results on four targets, and two showed room for improvement.
During a review of the report on Thursday, Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville praised the university’s accountability efforts. He served on two state commissions that helped create the university accountability process.
“This is one of the most important and underappreciated reports that we produce,” Axtell said.
Regent Jesus Salas of Milwaukee urged the university to include more data related to enrollment and retention of minority students on each campus. Lyall said that information would be added in future reports.
Lyall stressed that the report will be distributed to each member of the Wisconsin Legislature, the Governor’s office and other key state and federal officials.
Regents approve Platteville enrollment plan
An innovative plan to boost regional enrollment at UW-Platteville by 2,000 students over the next several years was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents Thursday.
The plan would give a modest tuition discount to students from Illinois and Iowa who enroll in certain nationally ranked programs at the university, such as engineering. The out-of-state students enrolled in this plan would still pay more in tuition than the actual cost of their education. The extra revenue would be used to hire more faculty, address facility needs and assist Wisconsin students.
Platteville resident Arlene Siss expressed concerns that additional students would have a negative effect on neighborhoods near campus, the city’s supply of affordable housing, and parking, among other things.
UW-Platteville and UW System leaders, however, stressed that the university worked closely with community members, city officials and area legislators in developing the regional enrollment plan. UW-Platteville Assistant Vice Chancellor John Krogman said the plan received wide support in Platteville and southwest Wisconsin.
“We have never had an initiative energize this community like this initiative for a long time,” he said.
Regent Elizabeth Burmaster praised the plan as being good for Platteville and the entire state.
“This is an important collaboration that will help grow Wisconsin, improve southwest Wisconsin and lead to additional brain gain,” she said.
UW Colleges provide robust online learning
With 13 different campuses, the UW Colleges operates like a system in its approach to providing online learning programs, UW Colleges Chancellor Bill Messner said in a Thursday presentation.
Messner told the Board of Regents that while the UW Colleges program is unique, the 13 freshman-sophomore campuses are not the only UW System institutions engaged in online learning.
The chancellor briefly recounted the Colleges’ original goals in 1998 when it began online learning: provide access to underserved, off-campus populations; build a UW general educational foundation that could be used by other UW institutions as they develop an online bachelor’s degree; and generate additional enrollments and revenues.
Barbara Stinson, UW Colleges’ director of distance education, told the Regents that the Colleges’ online students were primarily non-traditional, meaning over the age of 22 (more than 80%); female (70%); and Wisconsin residents (80%).
She pointed out that their online enrollments had grown from 60 in the fall of 1998 to 770 in 2002 before dropping slightly in fall 2003 to 685. Their target audiences include returning adult students, persons with disabilities, high schoolers and military personnel.
Messner emphasized that the UW Colleges hope to expand their online programs in the future by adding more course sections and making these available to students “on campus.”
Education Committee reviews progress on diversity
The UW System is making progress in meeting its goals to further diversify its campuses, the Regents’ Education Committee learned Thursday.
In a review of preliminary data from the university’s 10-year diversity initiative, known as Plan 2008, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Cora Marrett described the ways in which the UW System is strengthening diversity.
At the halfway point of Plan 2008, Marrett noted, pre-college enrollments have increased 134 percent; enrollments of students of color have increased 16 percent; degrees conferred to students of color have increased 7 percent; and the number of employees of color and faculty of color have increased 38 percent.
Marrett also said there are several areas that need attention, including financial aid; graduation rates for student of color, which trail majority students by more than 20 percent; and the need for UW campuses to more fully align their missions with the goals of Plan 2008.
The regents will review in greater detail the five-year progress of Plan 2008 at the April regents meeting, in conjunction with the review of the annual report on minority and disadvantaged students. The plan was to originally be reviewed in December.
Marrett said the change in date is not a delay, but instead is necessary so UW officials could review the U.S. Supreme Court decisions from last year regarding the use of race in college admissions and analyze progress since Plan 2008 was first unveiled.
Marrett said the second half of Plan 2008 must focus on a set of few but powerful key indicators to be determined to help build “critical mass” related to diversity.
“Diversity must be part of our overarching mission,” Marrett said. “It must not be viewed as an add-on.”
Regent Fred Mohs of Madison said UW campuses are already diverse because the nation is becoming more diverse. He believes that minority students are not well served by an approach that says there needs to be a certain number of people of the same ethnicity on a campus to achieve educational success.
Mohs instead advocated for outreach to students of all kinds of backgrounds who are underserved in higher education, which is directly related to the UW’s public mission, he said.
Marrett said she agreed with many of Mohs’ points. She added that she was reminded of a statement from Martin Luther King Jr., who said what counted most was the content of one’s character, not the color of their skin.
“That’s what Plan 2008 is all about,” she said.
In other business, the Education Committee approved renaming the College of Health, Physical Education, Recreation & Teacher Education at UW-La Crosse to the College of Education, Exercise Science, Health and Recreation.
Regents adopt UW-Milwaukee differential tuition
After hearing presentations from UW-Milwaukee student senators who want to sustain the quality of their education, the Board of Regents on Thursday approved differential tuition rates for four areas of study at UW-Milwaukee.
“When you talk to UW-Milwaukee students today, the paramount concern they have is the quality of their education,” said UW-Milwaukee Student Senate speaker Neal Michals. “Access is a concern too, but what does access do without quality?”
The special tuition rates, which range from $10 to $30 per credit, will provide additional dollars for programs in the Peck School of the Arts, the College of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Business Administration, and the College of Nursing. These professional schools have unique needs that make the cost of instruction higher than other programs, Michals said.
Students and their representatives voted for the increases and had great deal of input into the decision to request the differential tuition, the student senators said.
“While the difficulties of increasing tuition are never enjoyed, they are often understood,” Michals said.
Student Katherine Gilland, representing the Peck School of the Arts, said the additional dollars would be put toward needed equipment and studio space.
In the College of Business Administration, the additional funding will allow updated programming, software and hardware upgrades, and an increase in the number of student advisers, said business representative Tim Calloway. Currently, the school has just one adviser for every 800 students, far below the ratios at similar programs, he said.
“That’s disheartening, because it’s our time and our money,” Calloway said. “They don’t know our strengths and weaknesses.”
Nursing school representative Rebecca Brah said the School of Nursing cannot continue to provide an education with a margin of excellence without the differential tuition dollars.
“We can’t just keep letting people into the school without advisers and teachers,” she said. “We can’t go without it anymore. The equipment and everything else just isn’t cutting it.”
Regent Mark Bradley of Wausau asked if the problems were a result of inadequate state support, or because students wanted to enhance current programming. Michals and Provost John Wanat said recent accreditations affirmed the quality of the programs, but noted that some concerns could be alleviated with additional state support.
Bradley said he wanted to be sure that students were not voting to enact the differential tuition rates to pay for programs that should be covered by state dollars.
“That is going absolutely the wrong way,” Bradley said.
Regent Eileen Connolly-Keesler of Oshkosh agreed, wondering whether allowing the differential tuition would send improper signals.
“Does this send a message to the state that we can provide funding for only basic education and anything above that someone else will pay for?” Connolly-Keesler asked.
The UW System is considering the UWM initiative a systemwide pilot with no set end date that could guide the board in future decisions, said Freda Harris, associate vice president for budget and planning.
UW-Milwaukee will conduct an annual review of the program, as well as a comprehensive three-year review. The regents voted to require the three-year report to be presented to the full board.
Business and Finance Committee approves United Council request
The Business and Finance Committee approved a resolution Thursday to allow an increase in the mandatory refundable fee students pay to support the United Council of UW Student Governments.
Effective Fall 2004, the mandatory refundable fee will increase from $1.35 per student to $2. The fee is not a segregated fee and is a separate item on tuition bills. The fee was last increased in 1999.
United Council president Jeff Pertl told the committee that the organization is consolidating its resources and that the additional funding would allow United Council to engage in longer-term planning.
Regent Mark Bradley commended United Council for its prudent request and stewardship of resources.
The committee also accepted a report on the history of UW System trust fund policies and current positions on social responsibility.
“It struck me that of the public institutions, we are certainly ahead of the curve,” Bradley said.
Although UW does not have an advisory committee like some private institutions, committee members agreed that the work of UW System staff and the annual trust fund forum provide ample opportunity to respond to issues of social responsibility.
Vice President for Finance Debbie Durcan also presented a report on gifts, grants and contracts for the six-month period that ended in December.
Total gifts, grants and contracts were $637 million, an increase of $58.7 million from the comparable period of the previous fiscal year. Federal awards increased $69.3 million and non-federal awards decreased $10.6 million, Durcan said.
Durcan also updated the committee on regular meetings she and Associate Vice President Freda Harris hold with the state budget director and Department of Administration budget staff. At the most recent meeting, Durcan said they discussed the current projected shortfall in utilities funding of about $5 million and the UW System’s efforts to meet position reductions.
Durcan also told the committee about a November meeting she held with Assistant Vice President Nancy Ives, representatives from two UW System campuses and representatives from Cal State. Durcan said the group discussed administrative areas that could be restructured to reduce costs or improve service, in particular the capital building process.
Durcan said the meeting was part of an ongoing exploration among campus business officers to explore alternative approaches to managing auxiliary operations in order to be more responsive to students, parents and taxpayers.
For example, Durcan said, Cal State institutions can have as many as three or four separate 501(c)(3)s that can issue debt for specific projects. Durcan said activities like bookstores or student unions can be set up under those foundations, as are student fees, similar to segregated fees at UW campuses.
This differs from UW institutions, which generally have just one outside foundation to handle campus fund-raising, she said.
In other business, the committee:
- Accepted the 2002-03 UW System Annual Trust Funds Report.
- Accepted the 2002-03 UW System Annual Financial Report.
Physical Planning Committee gives go-ahead for several UW-Madison projects
The Regents’ Physical Planning and Funding Committee on Thursday unanimously approved six projects/proposals presented by UW-Madison, including construction of a $40 million addition to Grainger Hall and a Dayton Street Housing project estimated at $34.9 million.
The committee also approved a resolution supporting $28.4 million for a UW-River Falls student union.
The regents will seek approval from the State Building Commission and the Legislature to use “fast track design and construction techniques” for both the UW-Madison projects, hoping that construction on the Grainger Hall Addition (supported by $30 million in gifts and $10 million from existing General Fund Supported Borrowing) and the Dayton Street Housing Development can move swiftly.
Such approval enables the university to demonstrate methods of streamlining the project delivery process. Specifically, the projects would be monitored and evaluated by UW-Madison, UW System and the Department of Administration in the areas of cost, schedule, and quality.
The full board will vote Friday on these and other proposals approved by the committee.
Nancy Ives, UW System assistant vice president for capital planning and budget, also reported to committee members Thursday that the State Building Commission approved $17 million for various UW projects at its January meeting.
However, Ives pointed out that the building commission deferred $10 million of UW maintenance requests, as well as delayed a decision on the UW-Milwaukee Kenilworth project until DOA Secretary Marc Marotta meets later this month with all affected parties.
Among the other actions approved by the committee for consideration by the full board Friday:
- Construction of a parking ramp (Lot 76) on the UW-Madison campus;
- Lease for the UW Medical School Department of Physiology;
- Construction of a new veterinary diagnostic lab at UW-Madison;
- Improvements construction for central campus utilities at UW-Madison;
- Repeal of restrictions requiring UW System review and approval of buildings in the Hilldale area of Madison.
The February meeting of the Board of Regents will continue Friday (Feb. 6) at 9 a.m. in Room 1820 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.