Politics & Government

Budget Fallout

The bottom line signifies a $59 million cut in state funds.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank

Chancellor Rebecca Blank says that all parts of the campus will feel the pain of state budget cuts, and the reductions will likely affect how long it takes students to complete their degrees.

For UW–Madison, the hits just keep coming.

The latest is a $250 million cut to the UW System, matching the largest state budget cut in the university’s history and the sixth major cut in the last seven budget cycles. The result: UW–Madison, the largest UW System campus, is getting $58.9 million less in state funding this fiscal year, despite intense lobbying from university officials and alumni. State lawmakers also slashed $5 million from specific UW programs, such as the Wisconsin Bioenergy Initiative.

“It is clear that continuing to diminish state support for higher education in Wisconsin does nothing but diminish the UW System,” Chancellor Rebecca Blank said when the budget numbers became public this summer.

Blank prepared the campus for the cuts before the Wisconsin legislature completed its work on the budget bill in July, announcing that schools and colleges would address a $23 million cut from last year by eliminating more than 400 positions, including 70 layoffs. Another $9 million will come from administrative units, the athletic department will chip in $7 million to help, and the university will tap its dwindling reserves for another $10 million.

UW–Madison will close and merge some programs, decrease the number of classes by several hundred, and reduce advising services offered during the next two years. There will be fewer support services — such as information technology — for students, faculty, and staff, and the university will spend less to maintain buildings and facilities.

The UW System Board of Regents approved a plan to raise tuition by $3,000 each of the next two years for nonresident undergrads at UW–Madison, which will generate an additional $17 million. Tuition will also go up for graduate and professional schools. The budget bill also removes tenure for professors from state statute and puts it under the control of the regents, giving them more power to lay off faculty and staff. Blank says there won’t be any changes in the way the university operates. UW campuses have broad authority to establish tenure protections, according to UW System officials. At UW–Madison, a new committee is working this fall to establish policies mirroring tenure provisions that were previously included in state law.

“As with any university, our reputation depends on the quality of our faculty,” Blank says. “Unfortunately, the inclusion of this language has created negative, often inaccurate, national publicity that will hinder the ability of UW–Madison to attract and retain the best faculty and staff. We are doing all we can to combat that, and I have said unambiguously to the deans that we are prepared to counter outside offers and aggressively fight raiding efforts.”

Blank is focused on continuing to convey the UW’s value to the state to prevent another budget cut two years down the road.

Published in the Fall 2015 issue


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