The University of Wisconsin System’s biennial budget request will put a heavy focus on the returns the state receives by investing money in higher education.
The System’s budget request, which the Board of Regents will vote on later this month, calls for a $42.5 million increase in funding for new initiatives and almost $455 million for capital projects. The capital budget request is primarily focused on improving existing buildings and only includes funding for one new facility – a mechanical engineering building on the UW-Plateville campus.
UW officials met with the public and numerous other stakeholders over the past year, in an effort to identify the greatest needs facing the state and what role the university can play in addressing them. System President Ray Cross says that request will be “more tightly connected to the needs of the state, and what we may do to help them prepare for the future.”
Cross points to the $10 in returns the state receives for every $1 invested in UW campuses as an example of the great investment the university provides. “The return on a dollar invested in the university is very sizable to the state’s economy.”
The Board of Regents is expected to ask for an end to a tuition freeze that’s been place for the last four years. Cross says moving students through the pipeline remains a priority, due to the impact in can have on course offerings on campuses – which can in turn make it harder for students to graduate on time. He says helping students graduate quickly does lower their costs and another freeze could cause difficulties. “If we are unable to secure the resources we need, either through additional GPR (General Purpose Revenue) and/or tuition…we do limit our ability for students to graduate on time.”
The UW is among many agencies working on their budget requests, which will be handed over to Governor Scott Walker’s administration by the middle of September and used to craft the budget he releases to lawmakers early next year. Walker told state officials last month that part of his budget will call for continuing a tuition freeze, and has also indicated new funding for campuses could be tied to performance-based incentives.