Investing in Higher Education

UW proposes new buildings, greater borrowing power in state budget request.

Bascom Hall covered in snow

Chancellor Rebecca Blanks says that “investment in higher education is key to boosting our economy, even in difficult times.” Bryce Richter

If the coming state budget includes what UW–Madison hopes for, it will mean important changes, both visible and invisible. University leaders and the UW System Board of Regents have proposed new buildings for the Colleges of Engineering and Letters & Science, as well as greater borrowing power.

In particular, UW–Madison would like to have bonding authority for capital projects and for program-related revenue, such as the funds brought in through residence hall fees, athletics, and parking fees.

“The UW is the only Big Ten school without bonding authority,” says Ben Miller, a senior assistant in the office of UW–Madison’s vice chancellor for university relations. “We believe the university should be able to borrow to cover operational expenses, particularly for those programs that generate revenue to cover their costs.”

The two building projects are also major initiatives. The College of Engineering would like to replace the building at 1410 Engineering Drive. A new structure would enable the college to teach an additional 1,000 undergraduate students, which would help the UW meet America’s growing need for engineers and others who work in STEM fields.

The College of Letters & Science hopes to replace the Mosse Humanities Building, which has been home to many arts and humanities programs since it opened in the 1960s.

The building has long suffered from structural and materials flaws. Music and arts programs left Humanities in recent years — to the Hamel Music Center and the Art Lofts, respectively — and a new academic building will better serve the remaining humanities departments.

In addition, the UW is seeking funds to increase online learning opportunities, provide more health services to students, increase student financial support, and add agriculture positions to UW Extension. Chancellor Rebecca Blank described the requests as “a modest proposal that recognizes that investment in higher education is key to boosting our economy, even in difficult times.”

The regents sent their request to the office of Wisconsin governor Tony Evers ’73, MS’76, PhD’86, in hopes that he would include the initiatives in his budget proposal, which is expected in February. That proposal would then go to the Wisconsin legislature’s joint finance committee.

“We’re hopeful to see our goals achieved,” says Miller, acknowledging that the coronavirus pandemic has left the state with a weakened economy and that the UW is one of many priorities. “We’ll have to build awareness and educate lawmakers [on the need for these projects]. They’re all important proposals for campus.”

Published in the Spring 2021 issue

Tags: budget, Campus buildings, Engineering, Humanities, politics, Public service

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