MADISON – The University of Wisconsin System must work to protect its future capacity to serve students and Wisconsin citizens as it makes decisions in the short-term to deal with budget cuts, UW System President Katharine C. Lyall told the Board of Regents on Friday (Feb. 7).

“Our obligation is to serve our students well at whatever scale is possible with available resources,” Lyall said.

In her remarks to the board, Lyall outlined five principles to which the UW System will adhere as campuses and administrators react to future cuts over the next biennium:

  • The UW System will first look to cut administrative expenses most removed from serving students, meeting legal requirements and generating revenues apart from state funding. Lyall noted that these reductions would likely result in slower services and longer wait times for students, parents and legislators.
  • The UW System will look to eliminate or merge academic programs and majors with low enrollments or with parallel programs elsewhere. Lyall said administrators would be careful to ensure the same majors are not removed across the system, but noted that certain coursework may be limited to a few campuses. In some cases, some students may need to apply out-of-state for highly specialized programs. Lyall also noted that positions and personnel will be lost as the system looks for cost savings. “Because our budget is 85 percent ‘people,’ we cannot generate large dollar savings without affecting jobs and people,” Lyall said. “We will make these decisions as conscientiously as possible… and make every effort to assist employees in finding new opportunities within the UW System and state government.”
  • The UW System will support tuition increases that would place UW campuses close to the midpoint when compared to peer institutions, coupled with matching need-based financial aid. “State subsidy dollars should be removed first from those who can afford to pay and last from those least able to pay,” Lyall said. “As you know, current UW tuition levels are at or very close to the bottom of our peers.” Lyall also noted that moving to the midpoint would follow regent policy of “moderate and predictable” tuition increases.
  • The UW System will review and adjust enrollment targets only if necessary after all above steps have been taken. “I want to stress that adjusting our enrollments is the fourth, not the first, step in this process,” Lyall said. “It is driven only by necessary reductions in faculty and staff that eliminate the ability to provide the sections, labs, and other educational services that students need to graduate.”

Since potential budget cuts were first announced last fall, UW campuses have been making cutbacks wherever possible, Lyall reported. All campuses have contributed to administrative savings by:

  • Reducing state-funded travel by approximately 50 percent.
  • Restricting printed matter and publications to information necessary for parents and students to select campuses and coursework, as well as fundraising materials. Lyall announced that publications will now indicate when they are not published with state funds.
  • Eliminating advertising supported by state funds, except legally required job notices and public event information serving local communities.
  • Selectively filling vacant positions to maintain instructional capacity.

Lyall noted that the UW System has reduced salaries and personnel costs by more than $20 million and 300 positions this year, when at the same time, full-time enrollments were 2,600 students above target. Effects from personnel cuts thus far include reduced library hours, fewer risk management and security staff, and reduced student work-study positions.

Regent Jay L. Smith of Middleton suggested that the regents would be well served by holding public hearings across the state to “learn, listen and discuss” how these cuts affect campuses and communities on a local level.

“The issues we have that pertain to quality are really campus by campus issues,” he said.

Regent Jo Anne Brandes of Milwaukee agreed, adding that the goals of such sessions must include educating the public about the UW System and the decisions that the board may be forced to make.

“We will do what we can without sacrificing the kind of quality that we think is important to distinguish us,” she said.

Regent Jose Olivieri of Milwaukee said he appreciated that Lyall outlined steps to take before cutting enrollments, and suggested that perhaps tuition should move quickly toward the midpoint.

Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville said he was concerned that the UW System was losing revenue because it had “moved too far, too fast” in increasing non-resident tuition rates, and requested a report showing the effects of last year’s increase. Lyall confirmed that the UW System lost “a couple of million, plus or minus” in revenue last year due to lower enrollment of non-resident students.

Remarks from President Lyall

Board commends former regents

The board on Friday commended four outgoing regents for their service to the board.

On behalf of the board, Regent President Guy Gottschalk of Wisconsin Rapids thanked Regents Emeritus Alfred S. De Simone of Kenosha, Phyllis M. Krutsch of Washburn, James R. Klauser of Milwaukee and Lolita Schneiders of Menomonee Falls for their work as members of the board.

“Thanks to all of our former regents for their dedication and hard work, and for their commitment to this outstanding university,” Gottschalk said. “We hope you will stay engaged and we look forward to working with you through the challenging months ahead.”

The four regents vacated their terms after Gov. Jim Doyle named new board members last month.

Regent Vice President Toby Marcovich of Superior presented De Simone with his resolution, thanking him for his guidance to the board.

“You were the voice of reason and common sense,” Marcovich said.

Gottschalk also presented De Simone with a resolution of commendation from the governor.

Regent Fred Mohs of Madison presented the resolution to Krutsch, praising her “deep commitment to education on many levels.” Krutsch praised the board for their collegiality and devotion to a common mission.

“Cherish that and protect it,” she said. “You don’t see that on every board.”

Klauser and Schneiders received resolutions of appreciation at a ceremony Thursday evening.

Regents honor fallen astronauts

The Board of Regents on Friday approved a memorial resolution commending the accomplishments of astronaut Laurel Blair Salton Clark and the crew of the Space Shuttle Columbia.

President Gottschalk read the memorial resolution, which honored the astronauts as “national heroes who were committed to fearless sifting and winnowing for the benefit of all humankind.”

Clark was a UW-Madison alumna who earned her Bachelor of Science in Zoology from the College of Letters and Science and her Doctorate in Medicine from the Medical School. She also conducted two scientific experiments designed by UW-Madison’s Wisconsin Center for Space Automation and Robotics while aboard the Columbia.

UW-Madison Provost Peter Spear told the board that plans were underway to honor Dr. Clark by creating a scholarship for her eight-year-old son.

The astronauts aboard the Columbia were lost Feb. 1 when the shuttle broke apart upon return to the Earth’s atmosphere.

Regents expand discussion of accountability, quality

Regent President Gottschalk reminded the board on Friday that Gov. Jim Doyle has asked the Legislature to consider $161.5 million in cuts for this year, which will include $6.9 million in cuts for the UW System.

“The good news is that he has exempted the university’s instruction and research budget from that cut—and we are very grateful for that,” Gottschalk said, adding that this year’s cuts will have no adverse impact on enrollments.

But Gottschalk asked the regents to keep the fiscal news in context. While Wisconsin isn’t the only state experiencing financial troubles, he said, there are massive deficits that loom for Wisconsin in the next two years.

“We have every reason to believe that our university’s fiscal condition will get worse before it gets better,” Gottschalk said.

Regents Education Committee Chair Patrick Boyle of Madison reported to the full board on Friday about the committee’s discussion on the UW System Task Force on the Higher Education Reauthorization Act, formed to coordinate the UW System’s response to the congressional request for input into the reauthorization of the Act.

He said the committee discussed at the length the “discounting” or forgiving of loans, a practice the committee would like to see expanded for students in high-demand, low-paying fields, such as nursing and special education.

The committee also discussed accountability and quality in a time of budget reductions, including the UW System’s efforts to share meaningful information with legislators, Boyle said.

Boyle also reported that the Office of Academic and Student Services has developed a process for approving exceptions to an extended moratorium on all academic programs imposed in light of expected budget cuts.

The office will use three criteria to bring forth new programs forward after February. Priority will be given to:

  • Programs responsive to a demonstrated critical state need, e.g., health care and special education;
  • Programs where delay in implementation would place at risk unique, time-sensitive funding and/or collaboration opportunities; and
  • Programs with a revenue and cost structure that will result in the enhancement of resources for the institution.

Currently, there are three programs that meet these criteria, according to Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Singer. These will be brought before the Education Committee in the spring.

Remarks from Regent President Gottschalk

Board approves resolutions

In other business, the full board passed 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.
    (All of the above building projects will be put on hold pending DOA approval.)
  • Accepting and recognizing new bequests of $50,000 or more.
  • Making available for spending the principal and income balance of the Louise C. Smith bequest.
  • Approving the extension of a contract with Chartwells to provide dining services at UW-Stevens Point.

The Board of Regents will meet again March 6-7, 2003, in 1820 Van Hise Hall on the UW-Madison campus.