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At the April UW Board of Regents meeting a few weeks ago, President Ray Cross said, "we are making progress with the Wisconsin Legislature on the importance of reducing the proposed $300-million cut to the UW System, establishing much-needed operational flexibilities, and creating a dedicated funding source with increases tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI)."
President Cross recognized that UW System is asking for substantial changes. Yet, the Legislature is asking us to be more responsive, more nimble and more agile. The increased flexibilities and a more stable funding source are necessities if we are going to meet that request by operating more swiftly while maintaining our academic integrity.
Flexibility, President Cross said, should be accompanied by improvements in our reporting measures to the Legislature. Currently, the Legislature requires the UW System to submit 43 accountability measures each year. The process alone diverts resources from our core mission and many Wisconsin legislators are unaware of the purpose of these reports. President Cross is working closely with legislative leadership on new accountability measures tied to important outcomes:
The more streamlined accountability measures mirror our focus as a campus.
Our advocacy efforts with elected officials and community leaders showcase the value of UW-Parkside, the value of higher education, and our role in talent development. We are also sharing facts about the very real impact of the proposed budget cut and how it will negatively impact the positive momentum we have on this campus and in our region.
The Joint Finance Committee (JFC) began deliberation last week on the governor's budget proposal and is expected to address issues related to the UW System sometime in early May. Elected officials in our area and others from around the state with whom I have met say they want to see the cut reduced and are hopeful that revenue projections, which will be announced later this month, show an increase in state resources.
I am taking every opportunity to share our impact on the region with valued community partners who rely on our mission and work. When I spoke with regional economic development boards, I presented a chart that tracks the changing funding model for higher education in Wisconsin during the past decade. This trend is not sustainable and clearly demonstrates the need for a more predictable and stable funding model.
Thus far, we have been able to achieve a degree of fiscal stability through effective stewardship. However, more than $5 million in cuts to our base budget and another $1 million in one-time funding since 2009 has created a $2 million structural deficit.
We will continue to protect the core mission of the university and minimize impact on the student experience inside and outside of the classroom. In order to address what we know for certain ($2 million structural deficit), budget managers have reduced expenses and submitted a balanced budget for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1, 2015. The balanced budget includes the elimination of 14 positions (13 non-instructional and one instructional) that are currently vacant. We have already contracted our workforce by 5 percent since 2010. The additional 14 positions represent another 3-percent contraction.
Budget managers have also prepared plans to deal with potential scenarios once we know the full impact of the state's 2015-2017 biennial budget. Let me emphasize that the purpose of these plans is to guide our decision making as we carefully consider the goal of sustaining our core mission.
We have tremendous positive momentum at UW-Parkside. Increases in retention and graduation; a highly successful educator-development program; new degree pathways with Gateway Technical College and the College of Lake County; close to a 100-percent placement rate for our computer science graduates; our 90 percent placement rate for pre-med and pre-health graduates; award-winning fine arts and business programs … the list goes on.
Our region is counting on us to sustain the momentum. As we look forward to 2018 and the milestone of providing quality, affordable higher education to southeastern Wisconsin for half a century, how do we improve the effectiveness of learning inside and outside of the classroom? And how do we improve the efficiency of administrative and academic support services?
Our integrated planning process -- including our Strategic Plan, Academic Plan, Master Plan, Technology Road Map, and Enrollment Management Plan -- has clearly identified five areas of focus that will position UW-Parkside for continued success:
As just one example, we are working with faculty and academic staff to offer more certificates and full degrees online. This initiative includes our continued efforts to build the infrastructure that supports the technology capabilities expected by today's student.
I am confident that working together we will successfully navigate the current budget challenges and build upon our positive momentum. Thank you for your commitment and dedication to what happens every day at UW-Parkside.