President Cross

RIVER FALLS, Wis. – Responding to Governor Scott Walker’s statement Friday calling for an additional two-year freeze on tuition at the University of Wisconsin System, UW System President Ray Cross concurred that keeping college affordable is a high priority of the UW System.

“Holding college costs down helps Wisconsin students and families,” said Cross, who led a presentation at today’s Board of Regents meeting in River Falls highlighting the university’s financial position. “UW tuition is already lower than many peer colleges and universities.

“We intend to thoughtfully and judiciously manage and explain our resources. We will continue to work with the Governor and the Legislature to meet our shared goal of delivering value to the state of Wisconsin,” Cross said.  “I intend to work vigorously to find a reasonable solution. I am confident that we can get the best budget possible for the university.”

President Cross gives his presentation on new financial management tools

The 2013-2015 budget previously froze tuition for two years, the first two-year tuition freeze in UW System history.

Financial Modeling Changes and Approaches

Better financial management tools observed over a longer time period are the key to improved forecasting for the UW System budget, said President Cross.

“We’ve had growing fund balances, but nobody really knows what the fund balance should be,” said Cross. Nevertheless, he’s committed UW System to do a better job of forecasting, to make the system’s budget process as transparent as possible. “There should be no surprises,” he said.

Regent Bradley (right) thanks Chancellor Van Galen and the UW-River Falls campus for hosting the meeting

Regent Bradley (right) thanks Chancellor Van Galen and the UW-River Falls campus for hosting the meeting

The new approach means taking into account enrollment levels, tuition income, taxpayer funding and other key factors reported quarterly. The way to get there, according to Cross, is to consider multiple financial commitments, such as planned spending and designated funds, and to do so over six years, instead of one or two.

“We’ve been working in slices of time, but we need to complement it with a longer perspective,” said Cross.

Regent President’s Report

President Falbo shared the names of four new Regents who have been appointed by Gov. Walker to serve on the UW System Board of Regents: José Delgado, of Brookfield, retired president and chief executive officer of American Transmission Co.; Eve Hall, of New Berlin, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce; Nicolas Harsy, of Madison, a junior mechanical engineering major at UW-Madison; and Anicka Purath, of Mount Pleasant, a sophomore political science major at UW-La Crosse.

Photo of Regent Janice Mueller

Regent Mueller

Falbo also updated the Board on the progress of ongoing chancellor searches at UW-Green Bay, UW-Stout, UW-Oshkosh, UW Colleges and UW-Extension, and UW-Milwaukee, and the renewed search for a Chief Audit Executive.

Regent Jan Mueller also reported on the Funding Allocation Work Group, which was charged last December. The group, chaired by Mark Bugher, retired director of the University Research Park, has been working on analyzing the existing model for fund allocation to the institutions, reviewing broad principles on which funding models are based, and alternative resource models, Mueller said.

UW System President’s Report

Following up on his commitment to “listen to the people of Wisconsin,” President Cross provided Regents with a brief overview of recent interactions with students, faculty, staff, legislators, members of the community and business leaders, and others. He also updated the Board on federal issues.

As part of his report on news around the UW System, Cross told Regents that a generous gift to UW-Stevens Point will establish the university’s first endowed faculty position and enhance one of the nation’s largest wildlife management programs. A $2-million gift from Gerald and Helen Stephens honors the memory of their son, Doug Stephens, a 1991 graduate of UW-Stevens Point. The gift will help create the Douglas R. Stephens Chair in Wildlife, a new faculty position in the College of Natural Resources.

Student veteran David Pillman, a sophomore at UW-River Falls, shares his story with the Regents as part of the inaugural Student Spotlight

Student veteran David Pillman, a sophomore at UW-River Falls, shares his story with the Regents as part of the inaugural Student Spotlight

Cross also introduced his inaugural Student Spotlight: David Pillman, a sophomore at UW-River Falls. Pillman, who served three tours with the Marines including time in Guantanamo Bay, the Middle East, and Afghanistan, is currently enrolled at UW-River Falls, where he is a pre-veterinary science major. He recently purchased the strawberry farm that he’d been working at since age 9. He is also working with Dr. Brian Smith, a professor of Horticulture at UWRF, to develop a new breed of strawberries.

Pillman told the Board that his interest in animal science originally stemmed from his experience growing up in Wisconsin around dairy farms, but was further piqued by helping injured animals while on duty in Afghanistan. “I wanted to be able to help those animals,” he said.

Pillman noted that campus life after years in the Marines required some adjustments, from transitioning to a more sedentary lifestyle sitting in classrooms to figuring out veterans benefits. He said he has worked with the veterans’ services office on the UW-River Falls campus and will be involved in preparing special orientations for UWRF veterans next fall. “It’s a completely different picture coming in as a veteran versus someone coming in from high school,” he said.

“For a Marine, he’s all right,” said Cross, who served in Vietnam.

In other business

In other business, the Regents:

  • Approved a resolution of appreciation for UW-River Falls for hosting the April meeting;
  • Approved a change in the bylaws of the University Book Store in Madison, moving from its current structure, which was established as a Trust Indenture, to a more common non-stock corporation structure as described in Chapter 181 of the Wisconsin Statutes;
  • Approved a B.S. in Physical Education at UW-Madison;
  • Approved an M.S. in Computer Science at UW-River Falls;
  • Approved a B.S. in Elementary Education at UW-Parkside;
  • Approved a resolution for a revised methodology to calculate UW System Program Revenue Appropriation Balances and Reserves;
  • Approved the annual Request to Trustees of the William F. Vilas Trust Estate for support of scholarships, fellowships, professorships, and special programs in arts and humanities, social sciences, and music;
  • Approved several charter school requests, including a 4-year renewal of Urban Day School (with review after two years), a new authorization of the Milwaukee College Preparatory School-North Campus, and authorization of three Seeds of Health Schools, Inc., schools under one contract, to include Seeds of Health Elementary School, Tenor High School, and Veritas High School;
  • Approved UW Colleges’ request for authority to permanently release approximately 3.0 acres from the UW-Fond du Lac lease back to Fond du Lac County;
  • Approved UW-Eau Claire’s request for approval to amend the previously approved lease of space in The Priory to (1) renovate space in buildings A, B, and portions of building C that are not occupied by the Children’s Center;
  • Approved UW System’s request for approval of seven All Agency Maintenance and Repair projects on four campuses with an estimated total cost of $8M that include exterior building repairs, space remodeling, and utility improvements; and
  • Approved UW-Whitewater’s request for authority to increase the budget of the West Campus Residence Hall Upgrade project by $2M Program Revenue-Cash; the lowest bid for this project was almost $2M more than the original project budget.

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents will next meet on
June 5-6, 2014, at UW-Milwaukee.


Photo credit: UW-River Falls photographer Kathy Helgeson
See more photos from the meeting

Related: April 10 (day 1) news summary

View video webcast of April 11, 2014, meeting