MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System is a top priority for Gov. Jim Doyle, even though the current budget deficit will require tough choices in the near future, the governor told the Board of Regents Thursday (Feb. 6).
“I see the University of Wisconsin System as one of the great promises of opportunity to every person in this state,” Doyle said during his visit to the regents meeting. “This state is in a very difficult situation. If we don’t handle it correctly, it imperils the University of Wisconsin, and ultimately, the people of this state. If we slash education, we undermine what makes our state so attractive.”
Doyle applauded the efforts of the Board, including those of Regent President Guy Gottschalk and former Regent President Jay L. Smith, to position the university as a major part of the state economy. He noted that most high-tech centers in the United States are located near major research universities, illustrating how the UW System’s research enterprise will continue to be of real value as the state’s economy recovers.
“That’s why education should be our top priority, and it will be as long as I’m governor,” Doyle said. “We must protect it, we must improve upon it and we must celebrate it.”
But as the state works to solve its fiscal crisis, this is not a time to undertake new initiatives but to identify priorities and protect them in the budget, Doyle said.
The Board of Regents is one of many state entities that will have to make tough decisions during the budget process, the governor said, adding that all areas of state spending will be affected.
“We won’t ask the university to do anything that the rest of the state isn’t willing to do itself,” Doyle said.
Board welcomes new Regents to first meeting
Regent President Guy Gottschalk welcomed four Regents recently nominated to the Board to the table at the start of Thursday’s meeting.
Gottschalk introduced Danae Davis of Milwaukee, director of staffing and diversity at Miller Brewing Company; Peggy Rosenzweig of Wauwatosa, a former state senator; Jesus Salas of Milwaukee, a bilingual instructor at Milwaukee Area Technical College; and David G. Walsh of Madison, a partner in the law firm of Foley & Lardner.
Gottschalk also introduced Mark J. Bradley of Wausau, an attorney at Ruder, Ware & Michler, LLSC. Bradley was nominated to a seat on the board that is not yet vacant, but has been invited to attend board meetings as a guest.
Davis holds a seat on the board’s Business and Finance Committee, Rosenzweig and Salas fill positions on the Physical Planning and Funding Committee, and Walsh is vice chair of the Business and Finance Committee and a member of the Personnel Matters Review Committee.
Board hears update on Higher Education Reauthorization Act
Congress needs to keep emphasis on low-income students and their access to higher education as it begins work on the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, American Council of Education President David Ward told the Board of Regents Thursday.
Ward said as Congress prepares to reauthorize the spending bill, which provides federal funding for postsecondary education, his job is to serve as an “alliance-builder,” bringing a unified message to Congress on behalf of the 3,000 public and private colleges and universities ACE represents.
“The great challenge in higher education is to help Congress realize where the problem areas are,” said Ward, a former chancellor of UW-Madison.
Ward said student financial aid is among the most important issues Congress will consider in the reauthorization act. Federal grant commitments have grown dramatically, but loan programs for low-income students haven’t kept up at the same rate, he said.
And, as colleges and universities across the nation struggle with fewer dollars in state support, Ward said one solution may be to implement needs-based tuition programs. This approach, used at many private colleges, charges higher tuition but provides more financial aid for students in need. Ward said this approach would generate additional revenue for institutions, lessen pressure on federal grant and loan programs and level the playing field for students.
The UW System submitted several recommendations regarding the reauthorization act to Congress this week, including calls for expanded financial aid, increased funding for improving teacher quality and additional resources for online learning.
The UW System also recommended that the federal government consider using the university’s process to measure accountability as a model for the future.
Ward said Congress knows states are facing unprecedented budget shortfalls, but many are looking to economic development to grow the nation out of deficit. Colleges and universities have a unique opportunity to “hitch themselves to the recovery bandwagon” as catalysts for that kind of economic growth, he said.
Ward added that the higher education community has an opportunity to make further connections with the Bush administration through dialogue on K-12 schools, national security and economic growth.
Regents stress importance of accountability report
State lawmakers and other decision makers should take heed of the UW System’s accountability report, as it outlines in great detail how the university is effectively serving its students and the citizens of Wisconsin, several members of the Board of Regents said Thursday.
At the same time, several regents stressed that the board and university leaders need to focus more on communicating the important information in the report to members of the Legislature and the public.
“I think this is a very powerful report,” said Regent Roger E. Axtell of Janesville. “But I wish that it was given more attention and credence.”
The annual report outlines how the university holds itself accountable each year to students, alumni and the state, similar to how corporations report to their stockholders.
Key findings include that graduation and retention rates continue to increase, and that one out of every three Wisconsin high school graduates immediately enrolls in the UW System, one of the highest access rates in the nation.
Some board members expressed concern about certain targets in the report where results are mixed, such as the availability of academic advising and the access gap for students of color. Others said the campus-specific reports need more uniformity in the data they report, particularly related to minority students.
UW System President Katharine C. Lyall explained to the board that the accountability report responds to multiple stakeholders and outlines the tradeoffs the university is making to accommodate a difficult fiscal environment.
“The budget-cutting challenges we have faced this year, and the additional cuts we will face next year, are forcing some tough choices and will require continuing efforts from all of us if we are to maintain our core capacity to serve Wisconsin in the future,” Lyall said.
The Regents’ Education Committee talked further about the federal higher education reauthorization process and the UW System’s recommendations to Congress.
Regent Axtell said he was intrigued by the idea of targeting federal financial aid to areas of workforce need, similar to current programs involving Perkins loans that encourage students to enter the nursing and teaching fields.
Some Regents said they felt when the state has more financial resources, state leaders might consider a Wisconsin version of such a program to address workforce shortages and brain gain issues. It was noted that the state does well in getting federal funding for higher education in the forms of financial aid and research funding.
Committee chair Patrick Boyle of Madison followed up on the full board discussion of the university’s accountability report, posing three questions: what do the members of the Education Committee consider the most effective indicators of quality; what will be the consequences of budget reductions on those measures of quality; and how can the UW System and the Board of Regents most effectively communicate the university’s quality measures to the public and to political decision-makers?
After a lively discussion by committee members and chancellors, it was generally agreed that quality definitions are derived from the individual mission and character of the campuses, and that the variety the UW System offers is one of its strengths.
The regents also discussed measures including student access to classes, percent of faculty that teach courses and retention and graduation rates. Axtell reminded the committee that the UW’s accountability report was developed so that state leaders would have a way to benchmark the university’s progress.
UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Rick Wells noted that if the university is faced with massive cuts in this biennium, “we are kidding ourselves if we think we can maintain quality without affecting student access.” He noted that a 5 percent cut to state funding for UW-Oshkosh would have an impact on the Oshkosh community akin to closing down the annual Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) event held there each year with much acclaim.
Regent Jonathan Barry suggested that the campuses and system should do a better job of describing the budget cuts in terms of how they impact local communities. Chancellor Don Mash of UW-Eau Claire suggested that the report be thought of in the vein of “fulfilling the promise of the Wisconsin Idea.”
Business and Finance Committee
The Business and Finance Committee received the Annual Financial Report of the UW System, which contains detailed financial information on all fiscal operations from July 2001 through June 2002. The committee also received annual reports on bequests over $50,000 and approved an expenditure of principal of the Louis C. Smith Bequest for the purpose of enhancing nursing student services at UW-Madison.
The committee received the Program Review of Stewardship of Art, Science, and Special Library Collections, but delayed approving the acceptance resolution and requested additional information on the potential costs of enhancing protection of UW collections.
The committee also discussed how to engage in longer-range planning when evaluating programs and priorities to manage potential budget cuts. Chancellors William Messner of UW Colleges, Kevin Reilly of UW-Extension and Charles Sorensen of UW-Stout addressed how past budget reductions have affected hiring instructional staff, loss of matching funds and differential tuition.
In other business:
- UW System Vice President for Finance Deborah A. Durcan provided information on states that have implemented mid-year tuition increases to offset budget reductions.
- UW System Federal Relations Coordinator Kris Andrews updated the committee about progress on federal relations activities, including recommendations the UW System forwarded this week to Congress regarding the Higher Education Reauthorization Act.
Physical Planning and Funding Committee
Nancy Ives, UW System assistant vice president for capital planning and budget, reported to committee members Thursday that the Building Commission approved approximately $76.5 million for various projects, including Camp Randall renovation plans, at its December meeting.
However, she said all building projects statewide have been put on hold pending Department of Administration review. The hold affects over 500 UW System building projects, regardless of source of funding, she said. DOA’s procedure is to first review projects closest to the bidding process.
Ives also reported shared interest on the part of the UW System and state administration to streamline the building process. Currently, the process takes about six years from conception to breaking ground.
In other business, the committee heard an update on the proposed UW-Madison cogeneration facility. Data is being compiled to compare two plans, one in which UW-Madison would work with Madison Gas & Electric and one in which UW-Madison would build a facility on its own. A recommendation is expected in a few weeks.
The committee also approved the following resolutions:
- $385,000 in gift funds for a botany garden expansion project at UW-Madison.
- $552,000 program revenue-cash for maintenance repair of UW-Oshkosh’s Titan Stadium.
- $6,956,000 general fund supported borrowing for UW-Platteville’s Ullrich Hall Renovation project.
- Authority to execute a land-use agreement with the UW-Whitewater Foundation for an athletic administration annex project and to accept a gift-in-kind of new and remodeled athletic facilities from the Foundation.
- Adding $655,000 of combined gifts and federal grants to the 2003-05 Capital Budget for construction of a residence hall at the UW-Madison Kemp Natural Resources Station.
The above building projects will also be put on hold pending DOA approval.
The Board of Regents will resume its February meeting on Friday (Feb. 7), starting at 9 a.m. in 1820 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.