October 25, 2014

UW system head likes governor’s budget

University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly testifies before the legislature’s budget committee in favor of the governor’s budget proposal. “If the governor’s proposed budget passes as is, we could see the lowest tuition increases in the UW in a decade, which would clearly be welcome news to our 180,000+ students and their families.”

Reilly tells the Joint Finance Committee the added resources and flexibility provided in this budget gives the UW the tools it needs to serve the state. Overall, the budget calls for $181 million worth of “reinvestment” in colleges, but Reilly says $153 million is already committed for things like previously-approved UW construction and renovation projects, fringe benefit increases, as well as leases and utility costs.

Reilly says the compensation of UW faculty has effectively been cut over the past four years; they are 18 percentage points behind the average of their peers in salary. “We had eight years of furlough in each of the years of the previous biennium, and in the current biennium, with the higher payments for healthcare, the higher payments for retirement, the total compensation has gone down.”

Reilly says it’s important to have competitive salaries in order to maintain the quality of the University. “I mean, I could cut professors’ salaries in half and I’ll tell you what we’d have, we wouldn’t have the University of Wisconsin any more. We’d have a third rate school you wouldn’t want to send your kids to.”

Representative Cory Mason (D-Racine) suggests a tuition cap or to substantially change student aid to alleviate student debt. Senator Luther Olsen says UW should advise students in making correct decision about education so they aren’t burdened with debt after getting an education in something not very marketable, such as puppetry.

Reilly argues a college degree is still worth the price of admission. He says the projected difference between someone with a high school diploma and someone with a baccalaureate degree is between $750,000 and $1 million in additional lifetime earnings.