Cuts in UW funding are going to be painfulLeaders at the University of Wisconsin-Superior are looking for a way to put students first as they prepare to lose nearly $1 million in state aid.
Leaders at the University of Wisconsin-Superior are looking for a way to put students first as they prepare to lose nearly $1 million in state aid.
On Oct. 14, UW System schools learned that lower than projected tax revenue would force them to swallow a one-time loss or “lapse” of $65.6 million on top of cuts already made in the state budget. Department of Administration Secretary Mike Huebsch sent out a memo to state agency heads saying they need to return $174.3 million in state aid. Although the UW System represents about 7 percent of the state’s spending, it is being asked to bear the brunt of the cuts — nearly 38 percent.
“It will clearly undermine the ability of higher education to serve the people of Wisconsin, and I think it’s going to be truly unfair and harmful to the people of Wisconsin,” said Sen. Bob Jauch, D-Poplar, during a press conference Monday about the cuts at UWS.
The Superior university is already swallowing a $1.9 million budget cut in the 2012 fiscal year and another $1.9 million cut in fiscal year 2013.
According to Jan Hanson, chancellor of administration and finance, tuition rose 5.5 percent — the highest amount allowed — this year and will again next year. Other flexibilities offered in the budget were used to offset those cuts. But this new loss of funding — $700,000 in 2012 and nearly $300,000 in 2013 — comes on top of that, in the middle of the first semester.
“The bulk of these cuts have to occur in the second semester,” Jauch said.
The campus had more than 50 resignations and retirements since the first of March. Hanson said the campus community will examine those positions and look at leaving some unfilled as a result of the lost funding. They will discuss whether to cut back academic offerings or increase class size.
“The things we can affect this year yet because we do have to come up with a plan by the first of November and we’re four months into the year,” Hanson said. “So it’s very, very difficult.”
UWS is known for its small classes where students get to know their professors by name, said Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, and that small school feeling gives many young adults opportunities for higher education here in the Twin Ports.
“I think with these cuts, we’ll see a further erosion of those opportunities for people,” Milroy said.
He said business owners in the district tell him their top concerns are the cost of health care and the need for a well-trained workforce.
“When we’re in the middle of a tough economy, everybody has to make some difficult decisions,” Milroy said, including the universities and Gov. Scott Walker. “But the real tragedy in his choice is the disproportional cuts to the UW System which is one of the major components of Wisconsin’s economic engine.” It’s a choice, Milroy said, that could “further stall” the state’s economic recovery.
Jauch said the proposed one-time lapse in funding will be reviewed by the Joint Finance Committee before being approved. Meanwhile, campus leaders are working to put a plan in place. The cut was discussed during a Monday meeting of the university’s Continuous Improvement Planning Team. Chancellor Renee Wachter has told Jauch that she would work with the entire campus community to get input and make decisions on how to deal with the funding dip.
“Because this is going to impact everyone,” he said.
A few members of the UWS classified staff attended the Monday press conference.
“It leaves us wondering what is going to happen next,” said Dede Herrick, a financial specialist.
Milroy said that enough public out-cry could make the members of the Joint Finance Committee — 12 republicans and four democrats — reconsider the cuts.
“I think the community just needs to be involved and informed,” said financial specialist Kathy O’Flanagan. “Look for ways they can talk to their congressman, talk to Walker …”
Or, Herrick said, get in touch with your local city or county representatives.
“Should this lapse materialize, it’s going to be very painful,” Hanson said.