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Chancellor hosts town hall meeting

April 28, 2011

Chancellor Dean Van Galen, along with the Special Assistant to the Chancellor Blake Fry and the Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Gregg Heinselman held a student town hall meeting Tuesday to inform students about the university budget, differential tuition, the Wisconsin Idea Partnership and tuition reciprocity.

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership

The Wisconsin Idea Partnership, a plan that would provide all UW institutions with operational flexibility, was initiated by the UW System President Kevin Reilly and is supported by the Board of Regents and Chancellors within the system.  The impetus for the plan is related to the New Badger Partnership proposed by Chancellor Biddy Martin at UW Madison, Van Galen said.  This proposal, which includes giving UW Madison more flexibilities and allowing it to separate from the UW System, was brought before Gov. Scott Walker in December 2010 and January 2011, Van Galen added. When Gov. Walker announced his proposed 2011-13 biennial budget, a modified version of the New Badger Partnership was included, said Van Galen.

“That part of the (budget) proposal was very much a surprise to the chancellors, the board of regents and President Reilly,” Van Galen said. “That’s a huge change in how higher education is structured in the state of Wisconsin.”

Since March, Reilly has spoken to the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance about the positive benefits that can be gained by giving the UW-System more flexibility while also keeping UW Madison within the system.

Van Galen said that while he thinks it is fair to say that the legislatures are moving in the direction of giving the UW-System more flexibility, he is uncertain whether UW Madison will split off from the system.

Van Galen provided several examples describing why giving more operational control to the chancellors and administrators within each university would save money while also improving efficiency.

Capital planning and construction projects, along with tuition, human resources and budgeting are strictly monitored and laden with rules from the UW System, state statue and the Department of Administration, Van Galen said.

In terms of capital planning and construction projects, within an eight-year time frame, UW-River Falls has spent $71 million through student supported borrowing in building projects.

Some of those projects include two residence halls, one of which is in the construction phase, the University Center and the CHILD center.

“All of those building projects have to go through, right now, the DOA which charges a 4 percent fee, which comes to $2.8 million for that eight year window of projects,” Van Galen said.

Noting that 4 percent is high compared to the national average which is around 2.5 to 3 percent, Van Galen said because of the state system students are essentially paying more than they should be paying for those projects to be managed.

“If we had these flexibilities that $71 million in projects would cost the students about $560,000 less than what they have had to pay,” he said.

University budget

In Walker’s proposed biennial budget, UWRF may receive an 11 percent base budget reduction.

In order to operate within a tighter budget, Van Galen and his administration has had to make “some very difficult choices and decisions,” Van Galen said.

Operating within predetermined principles that strive to keep the cuts to a minimum and maintain the academic core, the chancellor said that the average reductions to the four colleges amounts to 4.3 percent while the average cuts to the administration and support is around 9.7 percent.

Student Affairs, which receives no state funding, or GPR, and instead is funded entirely by student fees in the form of non-segregated, will have to sheer more than $532,000 off its annual budget, said Heinselman.

Some of the areas within Student Affairs that will see cuts include: the bookstore, the CHILD center, Dining Services, FYE, and Student Life.

The CHILD center on campus, which serves students, faculty and staff and the community, will no longer have many of the cost saving incentives and rates that are currently in place, Heinselman said.  Currently there is a discounted rate for a client that has more than one child at the center but that will no longer be in place, said Heinselman.

Athletics will also see $50,000 in cuts, said Van Galen.

Although the university is cutting $2.05 million from the operational budget, there are some strategic investments taking place over the next two years, Van Galen said.

Some of those investments include: Human Resources System, Faculty salary adjustment pool, sustainability initiatives, the Cascade Avenue Project, Academic Staff and Faculty Promotions/Re-tilting pool and undergraduate research, scholarship and creative activity investments.

Tuition reciprocity

Although there has been a slight change to tuition reciprocity between Minnesota and Wisconsin, there will be no change for UWRF students from Minnesota or Wisconsin, Fry said.

“The agreement states that whichever state has the highest tuition, that is what reciprocity students will have to pay,” said Fry. “Since Minnesota has a higher tuition right now than Wisconsin does, it is not going to change anything for us.”

The motivation behind the new agreement stems from the fact that Wisconsin students who attend public universities in Minnesota pay less because Wisconsin’s tuition rates are less.

To make up for the difference, Wisconsin was shipping money to Minnesota every year, Fry said. Administrators at the U of M and other universities, who wanted that money but did not receive it from the state of Minnesota, created much of the uproar about the arrangement, Fry said.

This issue will be quelled because of the new tuition reciprocity, added Fry.

Falcon Promise

The Falcon Promise, a differential tuition proposal that was approved by the Student Senate and Board of Regents, will support undergraduate research, enhanced learning spaces, tutoring and scholarships. Senate support was essential in this proposal, Van Galen said, and Senate modified several aspects including making it mandatory that potential scholarship recipients interview as part of the application process. In order to fund the Falcon Promise, differential tuition will increase incrementally from $72.00 to $160.00 by 2013 amounting to $908,082.