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Gov. Walker’s budget threatens congruity of UW Systems

March 24, 2011

The Board of Regents is working on an amendment to Gov. Scott Walker’s 2011-13 biennial budget that would give flexibility to all UW System schools, while keeping UW-Madison intact, according to the Wisconsin Idea Partnership.

As a part of Walker’s budget proposal, UW-Madison could be split from the rest of the UW System schools in order to obtain more flexibility. Chancellor Dean Van Galen, along with the majority of other UW System chancellors, traveled to Madison on March 4, to speak out against the UW-Madison split-off.

The Board of Regent’s amendment to the budget proposal focuses on the areas of budgeting, tuition and pricing, human resources, capital planning and construction, financial management, and purchasing. The proposal being worked on by the Board of Regents was passed 16-1 at the Board of Regents meeting on March 10. 

The goal of the amendment is to avoid the separation of UW-Madison from the UW System while also providing flexibility to move funds around to address university issues. 

It could also provide the Board of Regents with the opportunity to set tuition levels based on the needs of a university’s students and employees to maintain its educational qualities. 

“The Wisconsin Idea Partnership would address the need to provide incentives for innovative practices and reward creativity and initiative on the part of faculty, academic staff, and limited appointees, non-represented classified employees, and represented classified employees,” according to the Wisconsin Ideas Partnership.

At the town hall meeting on March 7, Chancellor Dean Van Galen discussed the implications of the UW-Madison spin-off from the UW System. 

This separation would give UW-Madison the chance to set its own tuition and have its own board with the majority being appointed by the governor, said Van Galen.

“There are a lot of complexities under the surface,” said Van Galen.

The Board of Regents met with the chancellors across the UW System to allow them to share their opinions on March 4. Van Galen spoke of the university’s opposition because all universities need the flexibility being offered to UW-Madison.

“I must say I am deeply concerned that the separation of UW-Madison will, over time, result in public resources being disproportionately lost from institutions other than Madison. And I say ‘over time’ because arguments can be made, and actions can be taken in the short term, that may imply that a separate UW-Madison would consume a lesser proportion of state resources. In the long run, I really question this argument,” Van Galen said.

UWRF is looking for similar flexibilities that are being offered to UW-Madison, said special assistant to the chancellor Blake Fry.

“We, as a campus, don’t have ability to set our own tuition,” Fry said. “We don’t have the flexibility to adjust salary to customize per person on campus. There are also restrictions on how many permanent full time employees we’re allowed to have and what can be done with state funding. “

UWRF students, Nikki Shonoiki and Jenna Verhaagh, are concerned about how the UW-Madison split of could impact all UW System schools.

“The UW System is supposed to work as a group, one college shouldn’t split off,” said Verhaagh. “Many students transfer throughout their college life, what happens then?”

“It will damage the UW System as a whole because we won’t have as many resources. Smaller colleges and other four-year universities will take a big hit. It just wouldn’t be the same without UW-Madison,” said Shonoiki.

There are two major concerns in regards to the UW-Madison spin-off, which include funding and operations.

“With the current budget proposal, UW-Madison is taking a larger budget cut than they would normally take. Our concern is what happens two to four years from now,” said Fry.

Madison has hired 14 lobbyists to help push the spin-off through legislation. UW-Madison has very deep pockets with support from alumni, said Fry. 

UWRF is currently facing an 11percent base budget reduction along with the rest of the UW System schools, while UW-Madison is facing a 13 percent base budget reduction, said Van Galen.

“State dollars make up a smaller percentage of their overall budget. They bring out a lot of federal grants. They have raised their tuition significantly with the differential tuition they passed. They’re saying they’ll take a bigger hit, but it is not truly the case. We will still be taking a greater hit to our overall budget,” said Fry.

The lead administrators at UWRF are working hard so that students won’t see a change in their educational experience, said Fry.

“We are identifying programs we should look to grow, maintain, and those that should be consolidated,” Fry said. “We are going to protect the top 20 percent especially our classrooms, study abroad programs, and instructional areas.”