UW System President Cross Discusses 2017-19 Budget Request

UW System President Ray Cross is getting ready to present the UW System 2017-19 budget request to the Board of Regents and Governor Walker. In total, Cross said the UW System will ask for $42.5 million in new state GPR. In June, the UW System and the Board of Regents approved asking for $19.2 million in funding for the Wisconsin Grant administered by the Higher Educations Aids Board (HEAB). In addition, the UW System is requesting $454 million in General Fund Capital Bonding of which $100 million in “all agency funds” (which the UW System has never requested before), and $192 million in Program Revenue Capitol bonding request for those projects funded entirely by the UW System institutions. Cross said 10% of the GPR request would be in performance based funding, similar to how the Wisconsin Technical College System started their performance program.

Cross said the UW System budget will focus on four major areas: Educational Pipeline, University Experience, Business and Community Mobilization, and Operational Excellence. Cross said the UW System has a $10 to $1 return on investment (system wide, some campuses are higher than that), generates 7% of Wisconsin’s Gross State Product, and has been responsible for more than 331 UW-related startup companies. Cross explained the four focus areas as:

  • Educational Pipeline: Improving course options, increasing flex options, expanding options in high need areas like nursing, and 360 Advising for students.
  • University Experience: Making a higher impact, making the experience more dynamic, and teaching creativity and critical thinking.
  • Business and Community Mobilization: Every Junior and/or Senior get experience in a Wisconsin business through internships and mentorships.
  • Operational Excellence: Increasing efficiencies at the UW System and on the campuses, while maintaining the high quality of teaching, to help put more money in the classroom, resulting in more affordability for students and families.

The UW System will be asking for authorization for the Board of Regents to issue revenue bonds for program revenue funded projects. According to the proposal, the Legislature would authorize a bond ceiling, and the State Building Commission would release the bonds in the amounts requested by the University. DOA bonding staff would handle the issuance and sale of revenue bonds, while the University would manage the projects. In addition, the UW System will seek direct procurement authority from the legislature for purchase of specialized goods and services.

Cross referenced the May 2016 Wisconsin Technology Council Report showing that Wisconsin residents spend an average of $65,785 per degree, $10,000 less than the national average. The report also says Wisconsin residents expend about 15.8% of the median household income for tuition and fees, with the national average being 16.6%.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce Foundation (WMC) held an economic summit in December to discuss the current worker needs in Wisconsin and the future needs for workers as people continue to retire and leave the workforce. Cross said the UW System will be integral in helping educate the workers of the future and making Wisconsin “irresistible” for future generations. WMC identified the “to-do” list for the Future Wisconsin Project which includes: talent development (attraction and retention), business competitiveness, global engagement, government effectiveness, life quality, and entrepreneurial spirit. Cross emphasized that the UW System promotes business development by graduates and helps students and faculty to develop and register patents. Cross said the UW System is an investment in skills and ideas.

Cross highlighted a report from the Lumina Foundation, which showed the importance of post-secondary education in the job market.

Cross said the keys to affordability in college comes down to five factors:

  • Tuition
  • GPR
  • Financial Aid
  • Time to degree
  • Delivery costs for the UW System

Cross went on to say the UW System is working to decrease the time-to-degrees for the UW System by offering more 3-year programs, and making more classes available to high school students.  Cross highlighted that students enter the UW System with credits, but many programs require more than the traditional 120 credits, and that students opt to have dual degrees. (Click here for a story by The Wheeler Report done in June about bachelor degrees and completion times.)

The Board of Regents will meet on August 18 to receive the budget proposal from President Cross.