August 22, 2014

UW Board approves $95 million request

UW System President Raymond Cross

UW System President Raymond Cross

University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents approves a request for an additional $95 million in the next two-year state budget. 

The Regents unanimously approve the funding request even though Governor Scott Walker had warned all state agencies against asking for any more tax dollars in the 2015-2017 state budget.

In defense of their $95 million request, UW System President Ray Cross says the growth of Wisconsin’s economy is on the university’s shoulders. “I think it’s important that we make our case. This economy cannot grow any faster — any faster — without more talent. It just cannot grow.”

Meeting at the Oshkosh campus, Cross says we have a talent gap and it’s holding back our economy. He says tax dollars are needed to help pay for the school’s new Talent Development Initiative, to broaden the nature and readiness of Wisconsin’s talent base.

AUDIORay Cross says the vision for the future of the UW System should “challenge us to think big” and might even “scare us.” 1:12

The creation of jobs, Cross says, is perhaps the greatest challenge facing Wisconsin. “Just creating jobs is not enough. We need to create high-impact jobs, jobs that increase personal growth, quality of life, and social and economic opportunity. But perhaps most importantly … jobs that create other jobs.”

The UW also needs to boost the numbers of graduates while reducing the time to receive a degree, officials say, and the 26 campuses need to preserve academic quality in the face of another tuition freeze. 

Cross is confident with his request, saying UW officials have been meeting regularly with legislators and the governor’s office. State Representative Steve Nass (R-Whitewater) is chairman of the Assembly higher education committee. Based on those discussions he generally supports the request for more money, according to Mike Mikalsen, research assistant and policy advisor with Nass’ office.

Governor Walker says it’s too soon to say whether the request is something he’d support. “I gotta get through an election before I even get a chance to present another budget. The only promises that I’ve made about the University of Wisconsin System is that I will continue the freeze on tuition.”

AUDIO: Walker expresses the importance of the tuition freeze. :11

Regents say at some point, they’ll need to have a discussion about raising out-of-state tuition.

UW Regents contemplate requesting $95 million in state budget


University of Wisconsin System

The UW Board of Regents could decide today whether to ask for another $95 million in the next two-year state budget.

University of Wisconsin System officials say they need more tax dollars to help pay for the school’s new Talent Development Initiative, to create new STEM-related jobs — science, technology, engineering, and math.

The UW also says it needs to boost the numbers of graduates while reducing the time to receive a degree. Officials also want to maintain the quality of academic instruction and research in the UW System.

Officials say the 26 campuses need to preserve academic quality, in the face of another tuition freeze. Governor Scott Walker had told state agencies last month not to expect any increase in tax funding in the next budget that he’d propose in February — if he gets re-elected this fall. 

The Regents meet Thursday at the Oshkosh campus. They’re scheduled to take up the budget in the afternoon.

Wisconsin ACT scores and participation increase

dpilogoWisconsin continues to have the nation’s second-best scores on the ACT college entrance exam.

Figures released by the state Department of Public Instruction on Wednesday show an average composite score of 22.2 for Wisconsin high school seniors, out of a possible 36. That is up from a composite score of 22.1 last year, but still behind top-spot Minnesota’s composite of 22.9.

The ACT is the predominant college entrance exam used in the Midwest, while schools on the east and west coasts mainly use the SAT test.

The ACT also released benchmark scores that would give students a 75 percent chance of getting a “C” or better in college courses, and a 50 percent chance for a “B.” One of every five Wisconsin high school grads in May failed to reach any of the benchmarks on the exam. While 75 percent met or surpassed benchmarks in English — only around half did the same in reading, math, and science. However, at least ten-percent of the students were just a point or two short in reading and science.

The number of Wisconsin students taking the ACT has grown immensely, with 73 percent of the Class-of-2014 taking the test. The state is requiring it for all public high school students starting next year.

EdVest is easier, available to more people

Jim DiUlio, director of EdVest (PHOTO: Bob Meyer)

Jim DiUlio, director of EdVest (PHOTO: Bob Meyer)

Edvest gets easier and more people can contribute. 

Wisconsin’s 529 college savings program is new and improved. Jim DiUlio is director of EdVest. “One of the big changes we made now is that the tax deduction only went to parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles. We got a new change now. Any adult can put money in the account for a child. They don’t have to be related. It could be a godparent or whatever. And they can also get the tax deduction.”

They have also made it possible to contribute to an account electronically. DiUlio touts it as a good investment for the child’s education, and money invested in the program grows tax free. “We’ve also made a change now … it used to be up to $3,000 you could deduct on your Wisconsin income taxes, but now it’s up to $3,050. And we go through a formula so it increases a little bit each year because college costs more, too.”

Anyone can open an account with as little as 25 bucks, he says, and then add to it as you see fit. DiUlio notes it is never too late to start an account for a child and the money can be used at universities, colleges, and technical colleges. 

DiUlio notes there’s plenty of information online — via their website, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and their blog.

(Thanks to Bob Meyer, Brownfield)

Beloit College going test optional

beloitcollegeStarting with the fall 2015 admission cycle, Beloit College will become test optional, which means that the submission of standardized test scores will be optional for domestic first-year applicants.

According to Vice President for Enrollment Robert Mirabile, more than 800 colleges and universities have enacted test optional policies. Among them are members of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, including Knox College and Lawrence University, and national universities, including DePaul University and Wake Forest University. In total, about one-third of the top 100 liberal arts colleges in the U.S. News rankings are test optional.

“Given the extremely competitive marketplace in which we recruit students, it is important for us to carefully weigh the costs and benefits of each part of our application,” Mirabile said. “From this perspective, I am concerned that the standardized test requirement adds little unique value to our selection process. Indeed, the requirement can, in some cases, inhibit access to Beloit among capable students who would greatly contribute to and benefit from the College.”

Beloit’s test optional decision was made in consultation with a wide variety of campus stakeholders, including members of senior staff, the Admission and Financial Aid Committee and the board of trustees.