MADISON — The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will meet here August 23 to consider a 1997-99 Biennial Budget that focuses on advancements in distance learning and instructional technology, and supports implementation of student-centered initiatives to improve academic advising, enhance affordability for minority and disadvantaged students, and increase access to high-demand Allied Health programs.

UW System President Katharine Lyall said the requested funding for technology advancements for students will strengthen the University’s role in the Wisconsin economy and lay the foundation for national leadership in distance education, instructional technology, and collaborative program offerings.

“Our top priority in this budget is to improve the University’s productivity and effectiveness using technology,” Lyall said. “This budget allows the UW System to create a comprehensive, student-centered learning environment in support of the educational and economic needs of Wisconsin citizens.

“Available technology has opened the door to new levels of educational service and excellence, and the UW System has an obligation to our students and the state to seize this opportunity,” Lyall said.

Components of the $31.67 million Instructional Technology budget initiative include:

  • Providing a foundation of infrastructure and equipment to support training and assisting faculty in the application of on-line and other information technology to classroom curricula;
  • Enhancing UW System statewide information outreach to K-12 schools, and expanding student access to libraries and databases;
  • Developing a computer-driven UW System “Student Information System” (SIS) for the World Wide Web to assist prospective and current students with a range of enrollment and advising services, and links to existing and new information sources;
  • Increasing the number and quality of collaborative programs available via distance education.

Board of Regents President Michael Grebe said the budget is “on target” with its emphasis on technology improvements, one of several UW Systemwide goals reflected in the budget and initially recommended by the Board of Regents in its 1996 Study of the UW System in the 21st Century. The budget also includes a recommended initiative to improve student advising, as well as a statutory language change to enhance UW System effectiveness and efficiency through new administrative flexbilities.

“Clearly, I support this budget,” Grebe said. “The budget reflects extensive planning and a solid commitment to meet the evolving educational needs of Wisconsin students in a time of dynamic change in the economy,” Grebe said. “The UW System is vital to the continued success of the Wisconsin economy. I believe this funding package will help keep our UW institutions on the leading edge of instruction and service to the state.”

The operating budget asks for $19.77 million in new state funding to support the Instructional Technology initiative over the biennium, matching $11.90 million in fees for a total increase of $31.67 million.

A second new technology initiative would provide all two- and four-year UW institutions with access to “BadgerNet,” the state-owned fiber optic network. Under this $6 million initiative, campuses would experience higher-speed Internet connections, the ability to offer an expanded number of programs simultaneously, and higher quality distance education audio, video and data links with other UW campuses, K-12 schools and state agencies.

Other prominent student-centered initiatives include:

  • Academic Advising: The Regent 21st Century Study’s emphasis on maintaining affordability, increased use of distance education, four-year graduation contracts and reductions in credits to degree all raise the need for improvements in academic and career advising. Systemwide, $4 million is earmarked for additional advisors and/or training for existing staff.
  • Allied Health: Responding to the state’s shortage of allied health professionals, $2.24 million would be used to increase the numbers of graduates in Occupational and Physical Therapy programs at UW-La Crosse and UW-Milwaukee.
  • Assistance for Minority, Disadvantaged Students: The budget seeks $2.47 million in state funding for the Lawton Undergraduate Minority Retention Grant program and the Advanced Opportunity Program. “This would enable us to make more new awards and thus reduce the financial aid burden for minority and disadvantaged students,” Lyall said.
  • Pre-College Support: A separate budget request seeks $450,000 to provide minority and disadvantaged youth with a year-round follow-up to existing pre-college programs now offered in the summer at all UW campuses. “We will maintain our commitment to diversity by maintaining advising and other contacts with these students throughout the school year, to enhance their chances for college entrance and success,” Lyall said.

Increases in Operating Budget

  • GPR/Fee Increase. The combined GPR/fee (general purpose revenue) / (academic fees & tuition) budget increase requested is 3.0% in the first year and 2.4% in the second year, for an average annual GPR/fee increase of 2.7%. The total GPR/fee increase requested for 1997-99 stands at $106.35 million.

By category of expenditure, the UW System’s 1997-99 operating budget requests the following GPR/fee increases:

  • New Initiatives: $46.84 million. Over the biennium, new initiatives total $46.84 million ($31.00 million GPR, $15.84 million fees). Requested new initiatives meet instructions by the state Department of Administration to limit first-year GPR funding increases to 1% and second-year increases to 3%, excluding cost-to-continue items.
  • Cost-to-Continue Items: $59.51 million. In addition, the UW System operating budget calls for an increase of $23.46 million in GPR and $36.05 million in fees, or $59.51 million overall, for cost-to-continue items in the existing budget.
  • Program Revenue Increases: $206.93 million. The budget also includes projected increases in gift, grant and other program revenues totaling $206.93 million.

If the increases in these categories over the 1995-97 biennium, totaling $313.28 million, are appropriated, the UW System’s ongoing base budget by 1998-99 will total $2.68 billion. Of that amount, $876 million is GPR, $431.4 million is fee revenue, and $1,371.2 million is program revenue.

Tuition Component

Under the 1997-99 all-funds operating budget, estimated tuition increases of 3.1% and 3.3% are anticipated during 1997-98 and 1998-99, respectively, for an annual average increase of 3.2%. “This reflects Wisconsin’s traditional belief that tuition should be as affordable as possible,” Lyall said. “To keep tuition low, we are asking the state to increase its stake in the UW System budget.”

[Note: Tuition also supports a portion of UW System compensation increases, which are not included in the operating budget request. Compensation will be considered later in the state budget process.]

“We believe the proposed increases in GPR and fees are moderate, and reflect the importance of the UW System to the state and to our students. These moderate increases ask the state to renew its long and productive partnership with public higher education,” Lyall said.

Flexibility Sought

Finally, the budget also includes six statutory language changes aimed at improving UW System effectiveness and efficiency through enhanced flexibility measures. These are:

  • Permitting UW System institutions to spend available auxiliary funds as needed for any program-revenue, student-related activity;
  • Giving the Regents authority to set the compensation and other terms and conditions of employment for unclassified UW System staff;
  • Replacing external position control with budget controls;
  • Giving the Regents spending authority for tuition revenue, up to 105% of the appropriated amount, eliminating the need for special action by the Joint Committee on Finance if income is greater than expected;
  • Seeking Regent revenue bonding authority for the UW System capital budget; and
  • Permitting expenditure of program revenue as it is generated, and the creation of FTE positions as they are needed for credit outreach instruction.

Upon action by the Board of Regents, the UW System’s 1997-99 operating budget request will be forwarded by Sept. 16 to the state Department of Administration for review. Then, in late January or early February 1997, the Governor’s executive budget proposal for the UW System and other state agencies will be presented to the state Legislature. Typically, biennial budget deliberations in the state Senate and Assembly extend through late spring of the year.