UW system budget cuts raise difficult questions

CAPITOL NEWSLETTER
Matt Pommer • Wisconsin Newspaper Association

All of the University of Wisconsin campuses face difficult personnel decisions in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker’s call for a $300 million System-wide cut in taxpayer support for the 2015- 2017 biennium.

The governor, who left Marquette University without getting a degree, suggested the UW System should ask faculty to teach an addition course each semester. He said that would limit any future tuition increases “and at the same time we maintain a high quality education.”

Walker is starting his second four-year term as governor. He will be governor at least until 2019 unless he goes to Washington D.C. It could be a lengthy period of lean times for the UW.

The long-range future of the university system will continue to be its ability to attract and retain the best teachers and researchers. Walker’s budget and rhetoric will receive widespread notice because he is preparing to run for the Republican nomination for president.

Other universities across the country may seek to lure away the best upcoming stars of the Wisconsin system. Surely the long-range budget picture for the UW campuses will be a factor to current UW top performers if they receive offers from other colleges.

That situation also will make it difficult to attract quality to the system campuses. But a $300 million budget reduction in state support to public higher education suggests there won’t be much outside recruitment going on at most of the system’s campuses.

The cut will stimulate thoughts of retirement about veteran faculty members, but that won’t come quick enough to avoid layoffs within the system. Their postretirement pensions seem likely to grow faster than their salaries in coming years.

Other nuts-and-bolts person- nel issues include whether those who are laid off will have first shot at regaining their jobs. Employees who are laid off have the ability to collect unemployment compensation benefits. Ironically, the laid-off workers could be among the first to be required to undergo Walker’s drug testing requirements – another part of his budget plan.

Republicans have large majorities in both houses of the Legislature, meaning the governor’s slash in university money likely will be approved.

But there is some nervousness among legislators because of the potential impact on campuses in their legislative districts. Austerity sounds great in the abstract, but there is political pain when it hits the folks back home. Legislators will be concerned that their home campus gets treated like other campuses in the system.

Smaller and newer campuses could feel the state cutbacks the most. One-third of the Superior campus budget comes from state aid. It is 25 percent at the Parkside campus in Kenosha County and 20 percent at the Green Bay campus.

Madison, Milwaukee, and Oshkosh – the campuses with the largest enrollments – each have been getting 17 percent of their budgets through state aid.

The governor’s plan would give the university more autonomy while slashing state help by 13 percent. Being free of significant legislative oversight and state regulations is supposed to help offset budget reductions.

For decades, one question has lingered: how could a relatively low population, medium-size state like Wisconsin afford a world-class university system, such as the UW? Walker’s budget proposal seems to raise new doubts about the university’s reputation.


Most recent cover pages:













Poll
POLL: Do you think Elkhart Lake made the right decision in not allowing Strawberry the pot-bellied pig?:

Copyright 2009-2018 The Plymouth Review, All Rights Reserved

Contact Information

113 E. Mill St., Plymouth WI 53073
Local: 920-893-6411 Toll Free: 1-877-467-6591
Fax: 920-893-5505






Scott's Excavating, Inc.