MADISON—The University of Wisconsin System would use reinvestment from the state to graduate more students, attract more college graduates to Wisconsin, and help grow knowledge-economy jobs for Wisconsin under the 2007-09 biennial budget request approved Thursday by the Board of Regents.

“This is a dramatic and important turning point for the university,” said Board of Regents President David G. Walsh.” With state funding and support from the Governor’s Office and the Legislature, the UW can keep tuition low, open more slots for Wisconsin students, and do even more to help grow Wisconsin’s economy.”

The Board of Regents is asking for state funding in the 2007-09 biennium to improve access, affordability and service at each of its 26 campuses and through the statewide UW-Extension. If the state fulfills this request for state funding, the average tuition increase would be less than 2.5 percent over the biennium — the lowest requested increases for a UW operating budget in a quarter century.

The budget request, titled “A Growth Agenda for Wisconsin,” would allow the UW to:

  • meet state needs in educating more teachers, nurses, engineers and health-care professionals;
  • expand student enrollments;
  • recruit and retain faculty and academic staff to work with larger numbers of students;
  • improve student academic performance, retention and graduation across the system; and
  • build the university’s research capacity, particularly in the Milwaukee and Chippewa Valley regions.

“We designed the ‘Growth Agenda’ initiatives to meet state needs in a way that will work for all of Wisconsin,” said UW System President Kevin P. Reilly.

The Board’s request also includes funding to support initiatives to help increase college aspirations and access for two distinct student populations. The Wisconsin Covenant would provide state financial aid to cover college tuition costs for students who pledge to take rigorous high school coursework and prepare themselves for college. The Adult Student Initiative would identify, recruit, and better serve adult, nontraditional students across Wisconsin who want to earn a college degree.

“The Wisconsin Covenant and the Adult Student Initiative are the twin pillars of this budget request,” Reilly said. “Right now, Wisconsin is slipping behind our neighbors in terms of the number of citizens with four-year college degrees and in per capita income. The state needs to use its public university to help build its 21st-century knowledge economy.”

The request for an ongoing base operating budget increase of $120 million in state tax dollars and student tuition would cover new programs and the university’s existing costs. The request is $90 million less than the Board’s request two years ago. Approximately two-thirds of that total would go toward meeting standard budget adjustments, including rising costs for utilities, fringe benefits and debt service. In 2006-07, state general purpose revenues accounted for less than 25 percent of the public university system’s total operating budget.

The Board also approved a capital budget for the university that would require $135 million in state-supported bonding for new major projects, remodeling and expanding academic facilities. The university has pledged $45.6 million of private matching funds for these projects. In addition, the Board is seeking authority to construct $293.9 million of new projects that will not require any state support. The Board also requested $130 million in state-supported bonding for maintenance, repair and renovation of existing academic facilities.

Reilly noted that in the last six years, the UW System has reduced its ongoing base costs by $225 million, eliminated more than 1,000 tax-supported positions, and added more than 3,000 student enrollments.

“We have been productive and efficient in managing deep budget cuts in recent years. Now, it’s time to reinvest in the state’s public university system,” Reilly said. “Achieving the ‘Growth Agenda for Wisconsin’ will require both increased productivity by the university and increased public investment by the state. This is a budget designed in the interests of students and their families to accomplish both.”

Following budget guidelines issued by the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the UW System will formally forward its budget request by Sept. 15. The request will be considered as the Governor’s Office prepares to release an overall state budget proposal early next year.

For more information, see Aug. 17 Regents meeting (day 1) news summary

Media Contact

Doug Bradley UW System 608-265-0548