MADISON — Despite operating in an increasingly challenging funding environment, the University of Wisconsin System continues to provide an outstanding learning environment for its students, according to a new report.

“Achieving Excellence,” the UW System’s annual accountability report, measures university performance compared to national standards in a number of areas, including but not limited to student access and retention, graduation rates, credits-to-degree, faculty workloads, research funding and satisfaction ratings of students and alumni.

This year’s report shows that the UW System met or exceeded its targets on 13 of 20 benchmarks in 2001. The results are mixed on four measures: graduation gap for students of color, study abroad participation, undergraduate research opportunities, and student use of the Internet for assignments. Three other measures – improving academic advising, increasing students’ understanding of racial/ethnic differences, and building maintenance – show room for improvement.

“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,” says UW System President Katharine Lyall. “The budget-cutting challenges facing us for next year will require maximum effort, if we are to maintain current performance levels and move forward.”

Lyall will present the report to the Board of Regents at its meeting Thursday (Feb. 7) at 11:30 a.m. in Room 1820 of Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus. Prepared by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research, the report is available on the Reports & Statistics site and as part of the regents’ full meeting agenda.

Produced since 1993, the accountability reports respond to multiple stakeholders and outline the tradeoffs the UW System has made over the years to preserve a strong learning environment for students during a fiscally volatile decade, according to Lyall.

For example, she notes the hiring of instructional academic staff to replace faculty positions lost in past budget cuts; the effort to increase retention and graduation rates through improved student advising; the need to balance services to traditional and non-traditional students; and the struggle to maintain and modernize aging facilities.

“The $51 million we may end up cutting from our budget base in July will make these tradeoffs even more challenging,” Lyall says.

The UW System is facing a possible $51 million cut in its budget as part of Gov. Scott McCallum’s proposed budget reduction package, on top of $55 million in budget cuts the university has absorbed over the past decade.

New in this year’s report are systemwide results of the National Survey of Student Engagement, which surveyed freshmen and seniors at four-year universities across America about their educational experiences. Also new in this year’s report are campus-specific accountability reports, which the Board of Regents requested last year.

The UW System was one of the first state university systems to issue a public accountability report when it began doing so in 1993. Its report differs from other state-level accountability efforts by combining traditional indicators (access, retention, graduation, technology, resource management) with measures that examine the overall university environment and how it fosters learning and success.

The indicators measure progress toward six major goals: ensure widespread access to UW institutions and increase the pool of eligible traditional and non-traditional applicants; increase the levels at which students persist in higher education and complete degrees; improve learning competencies and provide learning experiences that foster the development of critical thinking skills; provide a learning environment that fosters the ability to function in a dynamic world community; enhance the learning environment by providing opportunities for guided research, mentorship, and access to student services and resources that foster learning and citizenship; and the efficient use of resources.

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061