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UW-River Falls stays positive after budget cuts

March 23, 2012

The University hopes to maintain quality education despite an 11 percent base budget reduction. Recent budget lapses have made it increasingly difficult to provide funding for units that are important to the University.

There were 72 budget requests totaling $4,136,736 submitted. The requests came from four key areas including: the four colleges, academic affairs units, non-academic units, and University wide strategic initiatives.

The process for the 2012- 2013 budget focused heavily on prioritizing from the small committee levels within academic departments up to the budget review and recommend committee.

“There were undoubtedly tough decisions made by department chairs, deans of the colleges, and many others in order to make sure only top priorities were sent forward,” said Budget Director Elizabeth Frueh.

With decreased state funding through General Purpose Revenue, many departments on campus have already had to reconstruct budgets and make cuts that may have repercussions.

The burden of the decreased amount of funding available will be shared by all units, but ultimately it comes down to losses of services, facilities, programs, etc. which will directly affect students.

“Recently, rising tuition has not come close to off-setting reductions in state support, leading to less course availability, potentially larger classes, and ultimately, longer time to degree for students. For the future of our State, the goal needs to be quality higher education that is also affordable. In the current environment, it is very difficult to achieve that goal,” said Chancellor Van Galen in an email.

Things like small class sizes are used to promote UWRiver Falls. If changes in those aspects have to be made because of budget lapses and decreased funding, it may become difficult for the University to compete for students and keep enrollment up.

“State funding decreases mean that tuition becomes a bigger part of the pie when looking at the amount of money available. Students are essential to the University because of the tuition dollars they bring in,” said Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Brad Caskey.

The College of Arts and Sciences is a big player in the budget. It foots the bill for general education and almost all of its money is in personnel. Caskey explained that a major issue the college faces is that really all it has to cut is faculty.

The idea behind prioritizing within the budget was that ultimately funding would go towards using resources most effectively.

“We’ve had a budget cut every year that I’ve been here. We just have to plan that it will happen and do what we can to maintain the quality of education,” said Caskey.

In addition to prioritizing, the University’s strategic goals were used as guidelines in the budget process. There are three goals which include: distinctive academic excellence, global education and engagement, and innovation and partnerships.

Frueh said that these goals are part of the Strategic Plan and are an integral part of the budget process. “We are really just looking at what is best for the college as a whole. It needs to be a collaborative effort and I am pleased to see that atmosphere here at UWRF.”

The budget must go to the chancellor for final approval and will be submitted to the University of Wisconsin System Administration by April 15. The budget must be approved by the Board of Regents and will be communicated to the campus by the chancellor before the 2012- 2013 school year begins.