MADISON—The University of Wisconsin 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.

UW System President Katharine C. Lyall will present the report, titled “Achieving Excellence,” to the Board of Regents at 1 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 5) in the Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., on the UW-Madison campus.

Similar to the way corporations report to their stockholders, the UW System report outlines the way the university holds itself accountable annually to students, alumni and Wisconsin citizens.

Lyall praised UW System faculty and staff for their skillful management of university operations during a period of deep budget reductions. However, she stressed that effects from the most recent state cuts of $250 million to the university’s budget for 2003-05 will not be reflected until next year’s accountability report—and beyond.

“While our performance has improved over last year, I am concerned about the future,” Lyall said. “Many of the ways in which the current budget crisis will impact our students have not yet been felt on our campuses.”

According to Lyall, the accountability report responds to multiple stakeholders and outlines the tradeoffs the UW System is making to accommodate a difficult fiscal environment.

For example, she noted that the university’s emphasis on preserving access for traditional-age students has limited enrollment for non-traditional students. She added that campuses protected student instruction from the biggest cuts this academic year, which meant reducing academic support positions, including academic advisors.

“In tight financial times, the university must make choices that balance competing interests fairly while preserving our long-term capacity to meet our public purpose,” Lyall said.

Overall, the UW System met or exceeded 14 of 20 targets in 2003-04, according to the accountability report. These include increasing graduation and retention rates, which are now at the highest levels ever in the UW System; enrolling more students in precollege programs and distance education courses; fostering critical thinking skills; providing opportunities for students to work on research with faculty outside the classroom; and having students exceed state and national averages on exams for graduate school and professional fields, like accounting.

Other performance measures that were met or exceeded, the report shows, include the number of credits students attempt to complete their degrees; providing student learning experiences outside the classroom; preparing students to live in a diverse world; increasing faculty use of technology in the classroom; student and faculty satisfaction with technology resources; stewardship of resources, especially keeping administrative costs low, developing more academic collaborations and realizing cost savings through shared technology agreements; and committing appropriate resources for professional development.

The report outlines mixed results on four measures: closing the access gap for students of color; academic advising; student volunteering and voting participation; and maintenance backlogs in classrooms and buildings.

Two other measures—access for non-traditional students and study abroad experiences—still leave room for improvement.

“The areas where we are falling short of our goals—especially in access for non-traditional students, advising, building maintenance, and study abroad—present challenges that are exacerbated by our current budget situation,” Lyall said.

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 measures that examine the overall university environment and how it fosters learning and success with traditional indicators such as access, retention, graduation, technology, and resource management.

Please visit the Reports & Statistics website for information concerning accountability reports.

Media Contact

Erik Christianson UW System 608-262-5061