University of Wisconsin System officials briefed members of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, on how the proposed UW System public authority and increased flexibilities included in Governor Scott Walker’s budget could impact the UW.
System President Ray Cross supports the changes. “Ultimately we will make the cost of higher education in Wisconsin predictable and stable for families, taxpayers and of course you, decision makers.” Cross told the budget panel on Tuesday. “We will be able to forecast prices.”
But Cross said a proposed $300 million state funding cut to the UW – a condition of those greater flexibilities – “truly is serious.”
“We appreciate that many of you in this room have already acknowledged the need to reduce the proposed budget cut,” Cross said.
He asked lawmakers to approve the UW System authority along with a dedicated and stable funding stream. Cross also asked them to reduce the budget cut.
“I want to share with you today the same message I’ve given our local legislators. The $300 million proposed cut to the UW System is too much, and too fast,” said UW Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt.
Cross’ support for the restructuring proposed in the governor’s budget is getting some resistance on UW campuses. An open letter from 74 faculty members, posted online, has garnered hundreds of signatures.
“Not only is it being implemented top down, without sufficient input or discussion from faculty, staff, students and citizens but also without the kind of thing that any corporation would do, the kind of due diligence . . . to determine whether or not there actually were substantial savings, and how much,” said Richard Grusin, director of the Center for 21st Century Studies and professor of English at UW-Milwaukee.
“The lion’s share of cuts will have to be personnel cuts, and this is why the $300 million is a concern for everyone.”
Grusin said that while the $300 million cut is potentially catastrophic, he said that “in a certain sense, the public authority is even worse.”