MADISON, Wis.—University of Wisconsin System President Jay Rothman provided a statement in response to a new report by the Wisconsin Policy Forum showing higher education funding at Wisconsin’s public four-year universities now ranks 43rd nationally:
“It’s discouraging that UW System’s four-year universities are near the bottom nationally in public funding, ranking 43rd overall in the new report from the Wisconsin Policy Forum.
“Support for the UW System should not continue to fall further behind nationally if we are to be competitive and thrive economically. Wisconsin’s future depends on developing and attracting talent now, and the UW is on the front lines of educating and graduating tens of thousands of students. However, UW’s talent pipeline that helps sustain Wisconsin’s economic vibrancy is stressed at a time when it is needed more than ever to meet workforce needs.
“Fortunately, our four-year universities have shown some positive enrollment signs, with a 1.8% increase in full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment from 2019 to 2021, which ranks Wisconsin eighth-best nationally since 2019. We know that any decline in higher education participation will directly and negatively affect Wisconsin. The UW System is seeking to be innovative and aggressive in producing more graduates to meet Wisconsin’s needs, with initiatives including piloting direct admissions, expanding dual enrollment for high school students, championing financial aid to help meet unmet student need, and increasing degree production in high-demand fields. Yet, accessibility and quality require ongoing investment.
“We also strongly back the report’s suggestions to fund unmet student financial need and invest in mental health services.”
The University of Wisconsin System serves approximately 161,000 students. Awarding nearly 37,000 degrees annually, the UW System is Wisconsin’s talent pipeline, putting graduates in position to increase their earning power, contribute to their communities, and make Wisconsin a better place to live. Nearly 90 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after earning a degree – with a median salary of more than $66,000. The UW System provides a 23:1 return on state investment. UW System universities also contribute to the richness of Wisconsin’s culture and economy with groundbreaking research, new companies and patents, and boundless creative intellectual energy.