RIVER FALLS, Wis. – Preliminary fall enrollment numbers across the University of Wisconsin System show encouraging signs, System President Jay Rothman today told the Board of Regents, with numbers up compared to the prior year for the first time since 2014.

The estimates, based on first-day registration figures and projections of other new students, show an enrollment of 161,322 for fall 2023. He reported that five universities show overall increases: UW-Madison, UW-Green Bay, UW-Platteville, UW-Stevens Point, and UW-Whitewater.

New freshman enrollment increased by 3 percent overall, excluding UW-Madison.

To maintain the focus on driving enrollment, Rothman said the UW System is moving ahead with the launch of a new enrollment initiative – Direct Admissions – at many of its universities.

“Direct Admissions bypasses and accelerates the typical college admissions process – which many prospective students may find daunting – and proactively guarantees students a place in college,” Rothman said, adding that admission is based on existing high school data including high school GPA and courses they have taken.

In the program, rising senior high school students will be matched with UW universities based on pre-determined admissions criteria.

To date, 10 of 13 UW universities have opted in to participate in phase 1 of the Direct Admissions program.

Rothman said it’s anticipated the first offer letters will be sent to students in July 2024 for admission in Fall 2025.

“We hope that Direct Admissions will not only grow enrollment, but also streamline the admission process, and help expand the number of Wisconsin residents with a UW degree,” Rothman said.

He also highlighted UW universities’ commitment to the nationwide College Cost Transparency Initiative. The initiative is designed to make modifications to improve the clarity, accuracy, and understanding of student financial aid offers.

UW-River Falls presentation: “University of the Future: Higher Education’s Role Addressing Grand Challenges for the Greater Good”

In the host campus presentation to the full Board, UW-River Falls Chancellor Maria Gallo described how the university is positioned to lead a future that combines student learning and building a regional and state economy.

Gallo said UW-River Falls’ commitment to students, its relative affordability, its strong outcomes in student success, and its proximity to the Twin Cities position the university as a leader in growing jobs.

Numerous national rankings list UW-River Falls as among the most affordable universities in the Midwest, she said. Publications such as the U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review’s Annual Best Colleges list rank the university as among the best public universities in the Midwest.

Likewise, survey results show that 99.3% of UWRF graduates are either employed or in graduate school, with 86% in a job related to their major. Most graduates remain in the Midwest, and their average starting salary is $53,000.

“Students at UW-River Falls get a small, private school experience at a public school price,” Gallo told Regents. “It is clear that our price point, plus our student career success rate, translates into an astounding value of a UW-River Falls education.”

Gallo praised UW-River Falls faculty for their commitment to student learning and said the Wuethrich Family/Grassland Dairy Center of Excellence, where students, faculty and businesses will collaborate to produce dairy products, and the Science and Technology Innovation Center (SciTech) scheduled to open in 2026, represent opportunities for even more hands-on learning opportunities that will involve businesses and grow the regional and state economy.

As examples of faculty creating high-impact, innovative programs, Gallo cited UW-River Falls faculty members Kateri Carver, director of the university’s Montessori Studies Program who oversees the nation’s only doctoral Montessori program; Kurt Vogel, animal science associate professor who directs the nation’s only Humane Handling Institute that trains meat processors to butcher animals humanely; and Karl Peterson, chemistry professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who described the SciTech building and business partnerships with the university.

Those facilities will further a national trend of universities and businesses working more closely together to spur innovation and boost the economy, the chancellor said. Being close to Minneapolis-St. Paul, and with nearly half of its students from Minnesota, UW-River Falls is geographically positioned to attract and retain students while adding to the workforce and increasing economic development, she said.

“It is not only the students that we want in our area,” Gallo said. “We want the businesses here too, so that the university can build significantly deeper relationships with them to retrain and upskill their workers, as well as have them work with our faculty to innovate in our University Business Collaboration Center within SciTech and invest in our technologies and academic and co-curricular programs.”

UW System President’s Report

In his regular report to the Board, President Rothman noted that the UW System continues to reach out and have productive discussions with legislative leadership to find a path forward on stalled pay plan discussions.

“Our faculty and staff are at the very core of who we are and what we do,” Rothman said. “The last several years have been challenging for all of us. We’re all trying to do more with less. I’d like to recognize and commend our faculty and staff for the outstanding and unwavering commitment – sometimes in very trying circumstances – to our students, to their universities, and the state of Wisconsin.”

Rothman said the UW System will continue to be relentless advocates on behalf of its faculty and staff.

The recently launched OpportUWnity Tour – which will visit all 13 universities – celebrates the wide-ranging opportunities that are part of the UW experience.

“The opportunities we offer don’t just change lives – they help us build a vibrant economic future for all Wisconsinites,” Rothman said. “At the UW, we are driven by our commitment to move Wisconsin forward and win the War for Talent.”

To date, the OpportUWnity Tour has made stops at UW-La Crosse, UW Oshkosh, and UW-Superior.

“As part of this tour, I am sharing success stories, engaging with community leaders, and communicating the importance of the work we do,” Rothman said.

Regent President’s Report

Regent President Karen Walsh provided the Board with updates on chancellor searches, noting first that Dr. Lynn Akey was unanimously approved last week as the incoming 7th chancellor of UW-Parkside.

Akey currently serves as Vice President for Student Success, Analytics, and Integrated Planning at Minnesota State University, Mankato. She will start on Jan. 2, 2024.

Walsh said a new search would be launched in coming weeks to identify a successor to UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow, who has announced he will be stepping down at the end of the academic year. Regent Ashok Rai will chair the search and screen committee, with Regents Angela Adams, Evan Brenkus, Jim Kreuser, and Joan Prince also serving. President Rothman is currently working with members of shared governance at UW-La Crosse to identify the full committee.

Walsh then updated Regents on four Regents Business Partnership Awards that have been presented since the Board’s last regular meeting in July: UW-La Crosse and Kwik Trip; UW-Parkside and HARIBO; UW-Superior and Essentia Health; and UW-River Falls and WinField United. In each case, the awards recognize productive and mutually beneficial relationships between universities and businesses.

She said Kwik Trip sponsors a UW-La Crosse business program – the Integrated Core Program – that is providing students with valuable hands-on experience and the tools they need to excel in the workforce. It also lends its voice to advocate for university building projects like the Prairie Springs Science Center that enhances student learning and strengthens Wisconsin’s talent pipeline.

HARIBO, the world’s leading manufacturer of gummi products, is relatively new to southeast Wisconsin but wasted little time in creating a strong partnership with UW-Parkside, Walsh said. As of 2019, the company has a 10-year partnership with Parkside Athletics. The company has also been a generous supporter of UW-Parkside’s Future Focus Fund, the university’s main scholarship fund for students with high financial need.

Essentia Health has been a long-standing partner with UW-Superior’s athletics department, Walsh said, and supports the university’s 19 competitive athletic teams and thousands of student athletes. UW-Superior student interns have also been welcome to learn alongside professional staff to gain hands-on experience, expand their networks, and prepare for future careers.

WinField United’s longstanding relationship with UW-River Falls was recognized with an awards presentation yesterday. There is almost daily interaction between WinField United and the university farm, Walsh said. “What began as a simple land rental agreement 33 years ago has expanded to include a robust internship program and scholarship support, as well as collaboration on research,” Walsh said.

Finally, Walsh noted that 11 Board members went before the Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue last week in a public hearing on their appointments to the board. This is an important step forward in the confirmation process.

Business & Finance Committee

Sean Nelson, Vice President for Finance & Administration, presented the UW System Program Revenue Balances Report for fiscal year 2023.

The report notes that total unrestricted program revenue balances decreased by $6.4 million, primarily as a result of three factors: the near-full utilization of one-time federal COVID relief funds, the return to pre-pandemic levels of certain non-personnel expenses such as travel, and the expanded use of federal indirect funds.

Tuition balances decreased $51.6 million (or 17.3%) to $247 million, which represents a 55.3% reduction since the inception of balance reporting in FY 2013.

Nelson noted that over 86% of the total unrestricted balance meets the Legislative Audit Bureau’s definition of obligated or designated for a specific project or purpose.

The report offers details on the program revenue balances by category for each institution. Those universities with balances exceeding 12% of expenditures in any category have provided details on the projects and initiatives for which those funds are obligated or planned. Among the campuses projecting structural deficits in the current year, a total of $64.4 million in reserves will be used to mitigate budgetary shortfalls.

The Committee approved the report in accordance with Regent Policy Document 21-6.

In other business, the Business & Finance Committee:

  • Heard a presentation from host campus UW-River Falls, “Increasing Financial Stability and Expanding Opportunities: Building a Stable and Thriving Institution;”
  • Approved a 10-year master research agreement at UW-Madison with GE Precision Healthcare, renewing a prior agreement that delivered over $32 million in value to the university. The agreement enables UW-Madison to use cutting-edge, early-stage GE Healthcare equipment for UW-Madison’s research goals in exchange for conducting research studies with the company;
  • Approved a UW-Milwaukee license agreement with T-Mobile Central, whose equipment has been in place at Bolton Hall since 2000. With the new five-year agreement and its renewal terms of up to an additional 20 years, the annually escalating license fees may generate a total value that exceeds $1 million over its lifetime;
  • Received an update on the Administrative Transformation Program. After months of analysis, it’s been determined that the go-live date should be revised from July 2024 to July 2025. Staying on the prior schedule would require a reduction in scope and pose risks related to financial controls, incomplete testing and training, and the end-user experience. By contrast, a July 2025 go-live will complete the full scope of the project and enable a high-quality rollout without disruption to operations. The revised cost estimates fall in a range of -3% to 8% of the original budget, meaning that with continued monitoring, it is a realistic possibility that ATP is completed within its initial budget target;
  • Approved an amendment to UW System’s agreement with Huron Consulting Group to increase the number of hours of professional services provided to the project. The amendment comes as a result of the revised schedule for ATP. The additional consulting hours equate to $8.7 million to cover services through August 2025, providing a period of care for two months following the go-live date;
  • Heard the report on gifts, grants, and contracts awarded to UW System institutions for fiscal year 2023. Total awards for the year were approximately $2.3 billion; this is an increase of $365 million (or 19%) from the prior year. Federal awards accounted for $263.4 million of the increase, largely driven by higher totals at UW-Madison, but with notable increases also reported at UW Oshkosh, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater.

Education Committee

Provosts Betsy Morgan of UW-La Crosse, Glendalí Rodríguez of UW-Stout, and Maria Cuzzo of UW-Superior led a discussion of accreditation and quality assurance for academic programming in the UW System. The discussion focused on the policies and procedures that guide the review of academic programing. Every UW campus is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) via a rigorous process on a 10-year cycle.

Panelists discussed national accreditation processes associated with quality across programs (e.g., distance learning) and accreditations associated with specific disciplines. The discussion also focused on the relationship between teacher preparation programs and the standards of the Wisconsin State Department of Public Instruction (DPI), as well as the role UW System plays in ensuring program quality.

In other business, the Education Committee:

  • Approved UW-Green Bay’s request for a Master of Science in Supply Chain Management, which will be a professional degree offered exclusively online and will prepare students for leadership roles in the manufacturing, logistics, and transportation industries. The transportation and logistics sectors are critical to Northeastern Wisconsin and are the leading industries for job growth. Currently, one in every 100 transportation and logistics jobs in the country are in the greater Green Bay region;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request to elevate three subplan options for the Bachelor of Business Administration to the full degree level – the B.B.A. in Business: Entrepreneurship; B.B.A. in Business: Human Resources Management; and B.B.A. in Business: Management. Creating standalone majors will produce efficiencies in the delivery of the major and will provide students with a more transparent pathway to degree, as well as a major that is more specific and recognizable by employers;
  • Approved the appointment of Aaron Perry as one of four public members on the UW School of Medicine and Public Health Oversight and Advisory Committee (OAC) of the Wisconsin Partnership Program (WPP). The WPP is a grantmaking program to improve and advance health equity across Wisconsin through investments in community partnerships, education, and research;
  • Heard a host campus presentation, “Academic Innovation on a Traditional Campus,” highlighting three examples of academic programs with innovative characteristics that still honor traditional learning at UW-River Falls. Each program is designed to embrace the tradition of personalized, hands-on learning while also utilizing characteristics such as technology, group-level peer-mentorship and/or individualized self-paced learning;
  • Heard an update on implementation of the University of Wisconsin Direct Admissions initiative, which aims to increase access and simplify the admissions process for Wisconsin high school students.


Capital Planning & Budget Committee

Regents in the Capital Planning & Budget Committee approved UW-Superior’s request for authority to execute a pre-development agreement for the development of an indoor turf fieldhouse and ancillary private development on the campus.

Development will alleviate crowding in existing facilities and aid in the recruitment of students.  As traditional funding for the construction of a fieldhouse through the state budgeting process was not considered a viable option, the institution chose to utilize a public-private partnership arrangement.  Through a competitive process, a real estate developer was selected to assist the institution in planning and developing a fieldhouse.

Since being selected in early March 2023, the developer has been working at risk to determine the project’s viability and financial feasibility. The project has now evolved to the point where a pre-development agreement must be executed to document the costs and risks to all parties in the transaction. The land on which the fieldhouse is to be constructed will be leased to the developer with a term to correspond to the lease of the facility with an additional two years for construction.

On August 15, 2023, senior leadership at UW-Superior presented the development plan to the City of Superior which has tentatively pledged a several million-dollar capital improvement grant. Other sources of funds being pursued include a partnership with Essentia to provide clinic space, revenue bonding with the Tourism Commission, and possible partnership with a local professional athletic team. There is also the possibility of naming rights with one or more of the partners. It is expected the developer will finance approximately $17 to $20 million of the total projected $26 million development cost.

In other business, the Capital Planning and Budget Committee:

  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct an all agency maintenance and repair project at an estimated total cost of $1,276,000 ($576,000 Program Revenue Supported Borrowing and $700,000 Cash). At UW Oshkosh, Scott Hall’s Restaurant Renovation will fully renovate 2,850 SF of kitchen, dining, and mercantile space within the high-rise student residence facility;
  • Approved UW System’s request for authority to construct a minor facilities renewal project at an estimated total cost of $7,395,000 General Fund Supported Borrowing. UW-Madison will install new sprinkler distribution piping and heads throughout the Animal Science, Educational Sciences, and Teacher Education buildings to provide complete building coverage;
  • Approved UW-Madison’s request for authority to enter into a lease of office space for the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH) of approximately 3,952 SF at St. Mary’s Hospital located in Madison, Wisconsin. The SMPH is requesting office space for 54 doctors to support the Residency Program. The Residency Program includes weekly seminars to teach the Family Medicine residency curriculum, hands-on workshops, as well as required exams and in-house trainings that support the residents’ overall educational development. The location on the St. Mary’s Hospital campus enables education and clinical experience for physician educators who also provide patient care. Space on UW-Madison’s campus that is proximate to a hospital is not available to meet these requirements;
  • Approves UW-La Crosse’s request for authority to complete the design and construct the Center for the Arts Parking Ramp and Police Building Addition project for an estimated total project cost of $27,642,000 ($20,293,000 PR Cash and $7,349,000 PRSB). The Center for the Arts Parking Ramp constructs a new 550-stall, above ground, cast-in-place concrete parking garage structure on the southwest edge of the campus boundary. Requests for parking permits by faculty and staff have grown as the university has hired additional employees due to increased enrollment. In addition, the university has a growing need to provide convenient visitor parking for the campus. An addition to the existing Police Services building at the north side of campus will be constructed to provide an incident command center, training room, police squad room, break room, and building storage. There will be a separate public entrance to allow access to meeting and training rooms for community usage while keeping the building secured;
  • Heard a presentation by UW-River Falls, “Strategic and Integrated Capital Planning to Support Modern Interdisciplinary Learning in STEM and Agricultural Science Fields”. The presentation focused on strategic and integrated capital planning in support of interdisciplinary and experiential learning in STEM fields including agricultural science;
  • Heard a report by UW System Senior Associate Vice President, Alex Roe.


Audit Committee

Edward Murphy, UW System’s Associate Vice President for Information Security, provided Regents with an update on major initiatives that are underway to migrate vital systems to the cloud. He noted that while these projects are being implemented, UW campuses are being attacked hundreds of times a day, as the education sector – from K-12 to higher education – continues to be a favorite target of cyber criminals who seek to disrupt operations, steal proprietary information, and attempt to profit through extortion.

The committee also received an update on activities related to the usage of TikTok and other foreign technologies in the UW System.

In other business, the Audit Committee:

  • Heard a progress report on the Fiscal Year 2024 Audit Plan;
  • Heard summary reports on recently issued audits: Bi-Annual Purchasing Card Audit; Office of Internal Audit Annual Report 2023; and ShopUW+ Internal Controls Assessment.


The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents meeting will continue at 9 a.m., Oct. 6, 2023, at UW-River Falls.