We are left with a house we can ill afford.”

A full house streamed into Erlen­bach Audi­to­rium on Tues­day for the Open Bud­get Forum, Chan­cel­lor Wachter’s update on the bud­get “lapse,” and cur­rent and future fund­ing of the Uni­ver­sity of Wis­con­sin – Supe­rior. The crowd, mainly com­prised of fac­ulty and staff, with very few stu­dents in atten­dance, was very quiet through­out the presentation.

Wachter began with a review of the facts. The uni­ver­sity sys­tem was asked to “return” 38% of the state’s bud­get short­fall, even though the sys­tem only accounts for 78% of the state bud­get. UW-Superior’s share was $700,290 last bud­get year and $298,176 for this year’s bud­get. The Chan­cel­lor told us that accord­ing to the Governor’s office, the lapse is expected to be an abber­a­tion, not a nor­mal part of the fis­cal picture.

Chan­cel­lor Wachter said “We are left with a house we can ill afford,” with new mon­eys from the state being directed towards new pro­grams while estab­lished ones are los­ing fund­ing. For exam­ple, the Governor’s office is pro­mot­ing a flex­i­ble degree pro­gram directed at work­ing peo­ple, allow­ing them to earn col­lege credit for knowl­edge gained in the workplace.

Jan Han­son, Vice Chan­cel­lor of Admin­is­tra­tion and Finance, explained some of the cuts that were made to meet this year’s lapse, includ­ing shift­ing some salaries to seg­re­gated fees or to grants and leav­ing some posi­tions unfilled, includ­ing chief infor­ma­tion offi­cer and direc­tor of insti­tu­tional research.

Han­son con­tin­ued with a list of under­funded cat­e­gories, includ­ing pro­mo­tions, library acqui­si­tions, and ath­letic travel (under­funded by $100,000 due to increased cost of fuel). The lack of a pay plan was cited, along with increases in the cost of ben­e­fits being passed on to employ­ees. Chan­cel­lor Wachter stated that UW Supe­rior pays its employ­ees an aver­age of 18% below national averages.

The cam­pus faces tough choices to main­tain its mis­sion,” said Wachter.

Recruit­ment and reten­tion are essen­tial to fund­ing the uni­ver­sity. This year saw a dip in enroll­ment, exac­er­bat­ing prob­lems. An increase of one hun­dred stu­dents is an increase in rev­enue of $2, 614,000 over four years. That same one hun­dred stu­dents would account for $130,000 per year in seg­re­gated fees col­lected. Analy­sis has shown that the Twin Cities is a good poten­tial source of new stu­dents, and a recruit­ment office will be estab­lished there.

Another course that is being inves­ti­gated is research­ing classes with low enroll­ment. The uni­ver­sity is also look­ing at major and minor degrees along with the gen­eral edu­ca­tion prac­tices, to see if any adjust­ments or con­sol­i­da­tions could be made there.

Provost Faith Hen­srud spoke about the impor­tance of uti­liz­ing and review­ing the university’s high-impact prac­tices, includ­ing Aca­d­e­mic Ser­vice Learn­ing, Writ­ing Across the Cur­ricu­lum, and Senior-Year and First– Year Expe­ri­ence programs.

The chan­cel­lor ended the pro­gram with a call for ideas from any­one on cam­pus, and reit­er­at­ing the goal of con­tin­u­ing the campus’s goals of acces­si­bil­ity for all and the cul­ture of inclusiveness.

In the com­ments and Ques­tions period at the end of the pro­gram, Dr. Khalil Dokhanchi reminded the audi­ence that the “root of the prob­lem is the lack of pub­lic fund­ing,” call­ing for a renewed effort to peti­tion the gov­ern­ment to place an empha­sis on higher edu­ca­tion. Gra­ham Garfield, Pres­i­dent of the Stu­dent Gov­ern­ment Asso­ci­a­tion sug­gested putting an empha­sis on recruit­ment at high schools through­out north­ern Wis­con­sin and Min­nesota. He couldn’t recall any sort of effort in his high school in Ash­land, WI.

A full crowd attend­ing the Open Bud­get Forum.
Image cour­tesy of Kirsten Scheid — The Stinger
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