MADISON, Wis. — The University of Wisconsin System today released its annual accountability report, “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future,” which will be presented to the Board of Regents on Thursday.

“Recently, we announced a long-range plan to increase the number of college degree-holders in the state by 30 percent over the next 15 years. Those are ambitious goals for the university and the state. As we work toward those targets, this annual report is one important way for us to measure progress, both for ourselves and our stakeholders,” UW System President Kevin P. Reilly said.

The report was redesigned last year to align directly with UW System’s Growth Agenda for Wisconsin, a strategic plan focused on creating a stronger Wisconsin economy through expanded educational access and university research.

Data included in the report show the UW System setting new records, with 178,909 students now enrolled across 26 campuses and in online degree programs. Those campuses conferred 33,044 degrees last year, another historic high. UW System’s retention and graduation rates remain above national averages. Students of color are enrolling in larger numbers, but retention and graduation rates continue to lag those of white students.

The annual contribution to Wisconsin’s economy for the 2008-09 graduating class is estimated to be $545 million, up from $507 million for the previous class. Overall, the UW System contributes $10 billion annually to the Wisconsin economy, a ten-fold return on the $1 billion annual investment by state taxpayers.

More UW students are participating in study abroad programs, which are considered a “high impact practice” in higher education. These programs contribute not only to higher retention rates but also to better preparation for professional success after graduation. The proportion of bachelor’s degree recipients who studied abroad or participated in a UW exchange program as an undergraduate increased to 14.3% in 2008-09, up from 13.8% in 2007-08.

In a lean economy, UW System has strengthened its focus on efficiency, spending millions less on administrative overhead compared to the national average for public four-year colleges and universities.

Students are contributing to the university’s efficiency, completing their degrees with fewer credits. In 2009, the average UW System graduate left with 132 credits, down from 145 in 1994. This helps to open up space in UW classrooms and reduces students’ personal educational expenses.

“This report shows evidence of increased productivity and efficiency. As we strive to help Wisconsin emerge from a down economy and prepare for future challenges, these are encouraging indicators,” said Reilly. “This premier university system continues to hold itself accountable in specific and strategic ways. In doing so, we hope to better demonstrate how investments in higher education pay dividends to Wisconsin students, businesses, taxpayers, and other stakeholders – no matter which way the economic winds may blow.”

“Investing in Wisconsin’s Future” reports the UW System’s progress in seven key areas:

  • Preparing students for success;
  • Producing more graduates for the workforce;
  • Increasing the creation of well-paying jobs;
  • Strengthening local communities;
  • Balancing, diversifying, and growing resources;
  • Boosting efficiency and overall operational excellence; and
  • Leveraging resources more effectively through collaborations.

This year, individual accountability reports for each UW institution were reformatted to align with the systemwide document, making all the reports easier to read and focused more tightly on strategic goals. The first systemwide accountability reports were published in 1993.

To view the 2009-10 report, “Investing in Wisconsin’s Future,” along with the individual campus/institution data in the new format, visit the Accountability Dashboard.  For more information about the UW System and upcoming Board of Regents meeting, see

Media Contact

David Giroux UW System (608) 262-4464