I’ve been a resident of Wisconsin my entire life, having grown up outside of Wausau. It was clear to me as a businessman in the private sector – but is even more apparent to me now after a year in my current job – that the UW System is Wisconsin’s largest talent magnet and economic driver. That’s why I took this role. Developing talent is key to Wisconsin’s future.

For Wisconsin companies to compete regionally, nationally, and globally, we need a world-class public higher education system. Right now, the UW System ranks 43rd out of the 50 states in public funding nationally. That is not setting us up for success.

Wisconsin is in a war for talent that is real and urgent. Our state needs more nurses, engineers, teachers, data scientists, and entrepreneurs, among others. And UW System universities educate students to fill those jobs. Our universities also teach students to think critically and creatively, preparing them to fill jobs that do not yet exist and, in many cases, to create those very jobs.

Our 13 public universities are a unique asset that can help Wisconsin win the war for talent. And winning that war requires investment, not only in our K-12 and technical college systems but also in the UW. The solution is right in front of us.

Wisconsin has invested over many years to build a premier public higher education system recognized across the nation. We have produced some of the world’s leading CEOs, scientists, and performing artists along with the Main Street business owners, public workers, medical providers, and teachers that help Wisconsin communities thrive. Like any business or institution, the UW System requires ongoing investment to keep attracting talent. Maintaining the status quo means falling behind.

Here are some sobering data points:

  • A recent Wisconsin Policy Forum report found the UW ranked 43rd among states in public funding.
  • State general support for UW System universities is lower today than 10 years ago on an inflation-adjusted basis.
  • In the past decade, Midwestern states have invested more in public higher education than Wisconsin.
  • Wisconsin’s participation rate in college continues to lag our Midwest counterparts.
  • More than half of the buildings in the UW System are more than 50 years old and in need of repair, renovation, or replacement.

With a $7 billion surplus, Wisconsin has an opportunity to invest in its greatest talent magnet. In the coming weeks, the legislature will decide the operating and capital budgets for the UW System universities. The decisions made by the legislature will define the future of our state. Wisconsinites cannot afford to be facing the same workforce and economic challenges five and 10 years from now because we didn’t invest today.

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. The UW System and its employees are purpose-driven, people-focused, and committed to stewardship.

Media Contact

Mark Pitsch UW System (608) 265-3419 mpitsch@uwsa.edu