MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents is asking for state funding for the 2005-07 biennium that will help its 26 campuses and UW-Extension begin to recover from the $250 million in state budget cuts they took in the 2003-05 biennium, while providing more access and services for students.
After a lengthy meeting, during which the 17-member board heard testimony from faculty, students, chancellors and United Council, the board debated and passed a budget request that would seek an average annual increase of $105.8 million in state tax dollars and student fees. Approximately half that amount would go toward meeting standard budget adjustments, including rising costs for utilities, fringe benefits and debt service, none of which directly supports student instruction.
The proposal would require a 7.2 percent increase in state support, coupled with a 4.3 percent annual tuition increase.
However, the request also would provide a major financial boost to students from low income families by essentially holding tuition at current levels for students whose families earn less than $46,000 per year.
The budget request also provides funding to replenish faculty and staff positions needed to teach high-demand courses and majors, to meet technology needs, to rebuild paper and electronic library collections, and for special projects to enhance regional economies and provide more opportunities for returning adult students to gain access to university courses and programs.
“This is a budget built around student access and success,” said incoming UW System President Kevin Reilly. “It represents access for lower-income students, access for returning adult students, access to quality faculty and staff, access to libraries and technology, and access to better-paying jobs for graduates.
“It’s a Wisconsin Success budget,” he added, “because the state would be getting more high-income workers, who would in turn, contribute to the state’s economic base and to a richer and healthier quality of life.”
The board also approved a capital budget for the university that would require $19 million annually in debt service to upgrade classrooms and laboratories and replace some academic facilities. Capital projects were approved for the UW Colleges, UW-Extension, UW-Stout, UW-Madison, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Platteville, UW-Whitewater, UW-Parkside, UW-Superior, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Milwaukee and UW-Green Bay.
Nearly half the projects approved will be paid for entirely or in part through gift funds and program revenue.
Regent President Toby E. Marcovich noted that the Regents were not acting “simply based on our own biases and interests, but considering these proposals on behalf of 160,000 students and their families, 30,000 employees and their families and more than half a million citizens of the state who depend directly or indirectly on the services and graduates of our university system.”
UW System President Katharine C. Lyall said she was pleased with the budget request, noting that during the past 15 years, the university as a proportion of overall state spending has fallen from about 12 percent of overall state spending to roughly 8 percent of state spending.
“I think the Regents sent an important signal to our students and to our faculty and staff that they believe that erosion should end,” Lyall said. “They signaled their recognition that our campuses are struggling to manage the deep budget cuts they have taken while maintaining their enrollments and commitment to students.”
Lyall noted that the state’s economy is turning around and that a reinvestment in the university system would pay important dividends to the people of the state.
“This budget will help us not only maintain educational quality, but also enable us to collaborate on projects to improve the Wisconsin economy and address state workforce shortages.”
In line with budget guidelines issued by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the UW System will formally forward its budget request by Sept. 15. That request will then be factored into the Governor’s overall state budget proposal to be unveiled early next year.
UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Donald Mash addressed the board, noting that the state and the university made a policy decision 20 years ago to decrease enrollment in the UW System, and the result today is a state population that is below the national average in both personal income and the percent of adults with college degrees.
“We focused on other things and that’s bad for Wisconsin’s future,” he said, adding that the UW System stands for potential and possibilities. “Support for the UW System can’t be turned on and off like a faucet. If we lose it, it will be turned off forever. This budget request is about Wisconsin and all that can still come with reasonable investment.”
More information can be found in the meeting news summary.