MADISON, Wis.—The Board of Regents unanimously approved today the University of Wisconsin System’s operating and capital budget requests for the 2021-2023 biennium.

UW System President Tommy Thompson told the Board he is seeking a 3.5 percent operating budget increase for the biennial budget, an investment that would renew the Wisconsin Idea through 10 key initiatives. He noted the proposed budget increase of 3.5 percent would be a $95.7 million increase in state support over the biennial budget.

UW System is also seeking $1.2 billion in capital budget authority to renovate 2.9 million of the System’s more than 67 million square feet, or 4 percent.

The UW System’s 2021-23 operating and capital budget requests will now be forwarded to the state Department of Administration for consideration by Gov. Tony Evers.

The budget also includes a request to the State’s Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB) to increase funding for the Wisconsin Grant-UW by $4.6 million biennially, a 3.7% increase, to fully fund all eligible students for this needs-based program.

Thompson said the priorities outlined in the budget request closely align with the state’s most pressing needs and reflect a renewed commitment to the Wisconsin Idea.

“A renewed Wisconsin Idea isn’t just about improving the universities. It’s about improving the lives and futures of all of Wisconsin’s residents,” Thompson said. “It’s about confronting the state’s biggest challenges head-on, from teacher shortages to the prison system to the labor market – and giving the state’s greatest problem-solver, the University of Wisconsin, the resources and responsibility to deliver effective solutions in partnership with the great people of our great state.”

Regents expressed broad support for the operating budget’s initiatives and commended the vision for the future they presented. Regent Tracey Klein said the proposed initiatives turn “a world of limitations into a world of opportunities.” “There’s a lot of excitement here,” added Regent Scott Beightol.  “I think we’re going in the right direction,” Regent Eve Hall said.

System President’s Report

President Thompson updated Regents on preparation and plans for bringing students back to campus this fall. He said the UW System is ready to roll out a COVID-19 testing regimen that will stand as one of the most robust university testing plans in the country.

Thompson reported that the UW System will have 36 Quidel antigen testing machines in place by next week to more quickly identify individuals who are asymptomatic yet shedding the virus – key to preventing or controlling the spread of the virus.

“I believe the University of Wisconsin has stronger prevention than what other universities are offering,” Thompson said. “We’re ahead of the curve.”

Thanks to an allocation of about $32 million from the office of Gov. Tony Evers and originally delivered from the federal CARES Act, the plan includes nearly $18 million for testing more than 350,000 students at all UW universities except UW-Madison (which received $8 million to support its own plan) and $6 million for personal protective equipment associated with that testing.

Thompson acknowledged that success is dependent on responsible student behavior.

“What we are focused on is mitigating risk as much as possible. We know we cannot completely eliminate risk, any more than we can control all human behavior,” Thompson said. “I am very proud of the work we’re doing and I think we are prepared and ready.”

Thompson also briefed Regents on efforts to reduce administrative costs and enhance opportunities for underrepresented and underserved students.

Thompson reported that he has called for UW System Administration leadership to streamline operations by implementing a 10 percent reduction in its state-supported salary line by the end of fiscal year 2022. Other cost-saving measures include limiting out-of-state travel; reducing supplies and equipment needs; eliminating some memberships and subscriptions; and using more virtual meetings rather than in-person.

Some of the funds saved will be redirected to a new Wisconsin Regents Opportunity Scholarship, which will provide hundreds of students from underrepresented and underserved students with access to an affordable UW education. Thompson also said the UW System will launch a $1 million diversity initiative to recruit more underrepresented students, faculty, and staff.

Board President’s Report

In his regular report to the Board, Regent President Andrew S. Petersen said the UW-Stevens Point chancellor search, chaired by Regent Karen Walsh, recently named semi-finalist candidates who will interview starting next week. He also noted that, at the request of campus shared governance groups, the search for a new chancellor at UW-River Falls has been postponed until January 2021. Connie Foster has agreed to extend her appointment as interim chancellor to accommodate the request.

Petersen, who launched UW System’s All In Wisconsin advocacy campaign last fall, provided an overview of the campaign’s themes and activities. He said the campaign will continue with President Thompson at the helm. “Our opportunities to visit campuses might be on hold for a while, given the limitations presented by the pandemic, but we will continue to tell our story and build stronger connections with the people, businesses, and communities of Wisconsin,” Petersen said.

In other business, the Regents:

  • Heard an update on UW System’s implementation of new regulations under the revised federal Title IX that prohibits sex discrimination in education programs and activities, including modifications to University of Wisconsin Board of Regents administrative rules;
  • Approved policy changes to Regent Policy Document 14-2, “Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment,” to be in compliance with new requirements of Title IX;
  • Approved the UW System’s Semi-Annual Status Report on Large/Vital Information Technology Projects; there are 16 major projects to report for this period;
  • Heard a semi-annual report on gifts, grants, and contracts awarded to UW System institutions from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2020. Total gifts, grants, and contracts for the period were approximately $1.7 billion, a 3.7% increase ($61.1 million) from the prior year; federal awards increased $110.5 million (11.2%), which is largely the result of $94.2 million received through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • Approved a fee-for-service agreement between UW-Milwaukee and EAB Global, Inc. for a five-year term with a total contract cost of $1.12 million; under the agreement, EAB will provide technology platforms and coordination of a regional collaborative among UWM, Milwaukee Area Technical College, UW-Parkside, and Carthage College to improve student retention, graduation, and success throughout southeastern Wisconsin;
  • Approved a master research agreement between UW-Madison and Adisseo France SA.S. for a five-year term with an estimated dollar value to exceed $1 million over the course of the contract; under the agreement, the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences at UW-Madison will perform research in the areas of ruminant nutrition and physiology, with a particular focus on dairy cattle;
  • Approved a master research agreement between UW-Madison and Rockwell Automation, Inc., for a five-year term with an estimated dollar value to exceed $1 million over the course of the contract; under the agreement, the College of Engineering will provide research to this Milwaukee-headquartered company in the areas of motion, drive, and motor control, communications, security and safety, emerging human machine interfaces, algorithms, simulation and emulation, sensors and thermal management;
  • Approved a three-year agreement between the UW-Madison College of Engineering’s Office of Engineering Professional Development (EPD) and HackerUSA, Inc. to collaborate in offering EPD’s intensive digital skills training programs; annual revenue to UW-Madison is projected at $1 million in the first year, growing to $2 million annually;
  • Heard an update on preplanning for the Administrative Transformation Program, an integrated program centered on streamlining policies, standardizing processes, organizing roles, and modernizing technology with cloud-based enterprise resource planning (ERP) software to support future state human resources, finance, and research administration services;
  • Heard updates on information security, UW-Shared Services, and COVID-19-related state and federal financial assistance;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to implement the Master of Science in Financial Economics program, which responds to a growing demand within the workforce for quantitatively trained financial analysts, who can use computerized tools, but who are educated in financial analysis and can work alongside traditionally prepared analysts;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to implement the Master of Science in Information program, which responds to the societal demand for a data/information literate citizenry and workforce;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to implement the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) in School Psychology program, which will address the shortage of school psychologists and respond to changing accreditation and licensing standards;
  • Approved UW-Milwaukee’s request to implement the Bachelor of Science in Freshwater Sciences program; UW-Milwaukee offers an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Freshwater Sciences, and this program will build from the university’s long-standing freshwater research;
  • Approved UW Oshkosh’s request to implement the Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science program, which would reflect the elevation of the current Healthcare Science emphasis in the biology program and respond to a continuing demand for healthcare-related programs in northeast Wisconsin;
  • Approved UW-Parkside’s request to implement the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program; the advanced degree is designed for working adults who wish to acquire advanced-level knowledge and skills for communicating effectively, critically, and creatively;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request to implement the Master of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics program, which responds to changes to dietetics education and the professional Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) credentialing process;
  • Approved UW-Superior’s request to implement the Bachelor of Science in Public Leadership and Innovation program; the curriculum will prepare leaders to confront the complex issues in their communities;
  • Approved the temporary suspension of Regent Policy requiring submission of ACT/SAT test scores by freshman applicants due to challenges posed by COVID-19; the suspension extends through the 2022-2023 academic year;
  • Approved a new Regent policy, which lays out the Board authority to set a uniform application fee to groups of applicants—undergraduate applicants, graduate applicants, law school applicants, and medical school applicants— while requiring uniform fees within a group, the policy further delegates authority to the UW System President to approve application fee waivers through UW System policy;
  • Heard an update on the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin (FCW) from Val Klump, Dean of the School of Freshwater Sciences, UW-Milwaukee, and Marissa Jablonski, Executive Director of FCW;
  • Heard updates on UW System’s electronic admissions application, the Student Behavioral Health Initiative, and the Online Learning Initiative;
  • Heard a report on Fiscal 2021 Audit Plan progress and a summary of recently issued audits;
  • Heard an update on efforts to comply with new Title IX regulations;
  • Approved UW-Stout’s request to construct a 2019-21 Classroom Renovation/ Instructional Technology Program project for the relocation of the Apparel Department out of Heritage Hall; the project scope includes updates to classrooms and lab amenities in both Fryklund Hall and the Communication Technology building;
  • Heard an update on construction progress for recent capital projects, as well as an overview of the 2021-27 Six-Year Capital Plan and report on recent actions by the State Building Commission;
  • Heard a report on the partnership of UW business support professionals with the federal Small Business Administration and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, and their support to entrepreneurs and business owners facing the challenges of COVID-19;
  • Heard a presentation on how the UW System’s Institute for Business & Entrepreneurship (IBE) and its largely campus-based program units have helped to coordinate the oversight and the disbursement of $11.4 billion in emergency federal and state loans and grants to Wisconsin business owners hit hard by the unprecedented economic downturn;
  • Heard from Regent Bob Atwell, founder and President of Nicolet Bankshares, on how Nicolet employees addressed the challenges of the COVID pandemic through efforts to support customers located across the northern tier of Wisconsin counties by administering Federal Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and grants; and
  • Heard that an overview on UW-Green Bay’s Water Science Program will be deferred to a future meeting.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on Oct. 8-9, 2020, in Madison.