Public Higher Education is Good for our Region
By: Debbie Ford, Chancellor; and Rob Ducoffe, Provost
The mission and vision of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside is centered on the principle that accessible, affordable public higher education is good for southeastern Wisconsin.
Community leaders from both the public and private sectors share this belief. During the past six months, they have taken time to contact Gov. Scott Walker's office and the offices of our state representatives advocating for the value of UW-Parkside and the UW System.
Without the calls, letters, and other statements of support, our elected officials may conclude that the people they represent are not interested in affordable, public higher education. As the 2017-2019 state budget process continues, your advocacy for UW-Parkside and the UW System is needed and appreciated.
We are encouraged by Gov. Walker's plan to reinvest in the UW System. Overall, we see his budget proposal as an indication that he values the UW and its role in moving Wisconsin forward. There are elements, however, that require a closer look. Your leadership team at UW-Parkside and leadership teams throughout the UW System, are carefully reviewing policies tied to funding for public higher education.
There are two key areas of the state budget that will directly impact UW-Parkside in the near future: funding for infrastructure renewal and facility upgrades to Wyllie Hall; and funding to support competitive compensation for our dedicated faculty and staff.
The UW System capital budget request addresses infrastructure needs in Wyllie Hall that were identified as a priority for the 2015-2017 biennium, but were not funded in the final state budget. The governor's proposed capital budget for 2017-2019 defers the Wyllie Hall project, yet again. The cost of the project has already increased by more than 10 percent. Deferring the work beyond 2019 will undoubtedly drive the cost even higher. There is also concern that postponing infrastructure and maintenance upgrades may result in more costly emergency repairs.
Another issue is competitive compensation for UW-Parkside faculty and staff. By including funds to address compensation, Gov. Walker recognizes that our dedicated faculty and staff are key to the success of our students and the economic vitality of our region. It is important to recognize that, on average, compensation for UW-Parkside faculty and staff trails our peer institutions by almost 20 percent. We encourage the Wisconsin Legislature to provide funding for compensation as requested by the Board of Regents.
UW-Parkside faculty and staff are responsible stewards of financial and human resources. Today, close to 40 percent of the students from southeastern Wisconsin who attend a UW institution attend UW-Parkside. During the past six years, more people have earned degrees at UW-Parkside than during any other six-year period in our history – and the majority of them were the first in their families to earn a degree.
Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development data indicates that the state's economy will require more than 21,000 people each year for the next five years with associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate or professional degrees. For jobs requiring a bachelor's degree, the total average job openings are projected at more than 13,000 each year.
UW-Parkside is developing ready talent for southeastern Wisconsin, the fastest growing region in our state.
Investment by the State of Wisconsin in UW-Parkside and the UW System is ultimately an investment in the people we will need to move Wisconsin forward.
If you believe that affordable, accessible, public higher education is a priority for our region and our state, please call or write your state representatives and tell them so. We appreciate your support and advocacy for the University of Wisconsin-Parkside.