MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System remains the most efficient university system in the nation, said UW System President Katharine C. Lyall in a report to the Board of Regents Friday.
Lyall noted that the UW System spends just 5.8% of its budget on administration, compared to the average of 10.4%. It is the lowest administrative expenditure among the 18 peer university systems in the country.
“We continue to do more with less,” said Lyall, adding that investments in technology, distance education, and facilities enhancement have been key in this regard. She also acknowledged much greater collaboration on academic programs among the campuses and the reduction of credits needed by students to earn their degrees. These are allowing UW “to maintain its competitive edge in keeping tuition low and services high,” she said.
She praised the Chancellors and her staff for their efforts, noting that the UW is a “national model for higher education efficiency.” She also thanked the Regents, the Governor and state legislators for their “investments” in the university that have made these gains in efficiency possible.
Regent and state efforts to give the university more management flexibility and to provide more resources for new technology and distance learning have been particularly important, she said.
Lyall’s report is a response to the Board of Regents Study of the UW System in the 21st Century which called for the UW to be “as creative and efficient as possible because the environment for higher education is one of continuous change.”
The report cited many specific examples of efficiencies realized in instruction, student support services, and administration.
For example, the UW Colleges are using distance education technology to collaborate with UW four-year institutions that offer place-bound students a means to complete certain bachelor’s degree requirements.
The new web-based “Voyager” library system provides an electronic gateway to the UW System’s cumulative library resources, and collaborative efforts on library hardware and software acquisition will produce savings of $700,000 annually.
Over the last several years, the UW System also has taken advantage of its collective purchasing power to obtain better pricing from vendors, especially in the computer software area. Purchasing a systemwide license for Oracle as a common database, alone, saved the university $4,000,000 over a five-year period.
The report also noted some barriers to efficiency, including antiquated personnel systems and large increases in the university’s portion of support for the state’s technology network.
“There are places where we need additional management flexibility,” noted Lyall. “With a small additional investment of resources in areas such as technology, fund raising and federal relations, we have the potential to save more money and to bring more revenue back into the UW System.
Sharyn Wisniewski, UW System