UW–Platteville is facing millions of dollars in budget cuts for its 2015–16 academic year at the time it could face part of a proposed $300 million UW System budget cut.
The first set of budget cuts could result in up to 70 jobs being cut on campus and reducing or ending some programs, part of spending reductions of up to $5.7 million, as well as increases in tuition for Tri-State Initiative students.
The second set of budget cuts depend on what is in the 2015–17 state budget proposed by Gov. Scott Walker this week, and the following legislative process. The Legislative Fiscal Bureau reported that UW–Platteville would have its budget cut by $4.215 million, or 14.2 percent, as part of $150 million in budget cuts each of the next two academic years.
Two meetings were held on campus last week to go over 2015–16 spending cut options. The deficit heading into the 2015–16 academic year is being blamed on the 2013–15 UW System-wide tuition freeze, and reductions in enrollments and tuition revenue in the Tri-State Initiative.
“We’re in the process of dealing with the structural deficit of $5 million before these cuts,” said Chancellor Dennis Shields. “That’s going to have an impact on 70 positions here.”
In addition to the position cuts, potential program cuts could include the Pioneer Academic Center for Community Engagement, suspending the Midwest Culturally Inclusive Conference and the University Fellows program, merging the Media Studies program into the School of Business, reducing the number of majors and minors with low enrollments, eliminating the central funding of employee tuition reimbursement, and reducing publications. A $750,000 cut in Residence Life and a $200,000 cut in the athletic department budget is also proposed, as is moving the UW–Platteville Heartland Festival to a “self-funding basis.”
At the same time, a group of UWP leadership, including academic deans and the chair of the UW–Platteville Faculty Senate, recommends increasing spending in faculty salaries, switching employees from the UW–Platteville Foundation to the university, and fully funding the Chancellor’s Scholarship program.
Budget cuts proposed, but not recommended, include closing the campus the last week of December, eliminating campus and clinics, eliminating the campus car fleet, eliminating Study Abroad grants, eliminating intramural sports, and eliminating the Small Business Development Center, the Wisconsin Agro Ecosystems Initiative, and the Confucius Institute.
The budget changes are due to the UW System in early April. Proposed budget changes are listed at www.uwplatt.edu/budget/budget-reduction-planning.
Walker was to introduce his 2015–17 state budget Tuesday night, but it was one of the chief topics at a listening session held by state Sen. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green) and Rep. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) at the Platteville Public Library Monday morning.
Wayne Weber, dean of the College of Business, Industry, Life Science and Agriculture, said that companies “love our graduates, so we are serving the state in industry and agriculture.”
“I don’t see it as a business model; I see it as a value,” said Regina Pauly, a UW–Platteville librarian.
Mesut Muslu, the interim dean of the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, referenced Walker’s suggestion that professors teach more by saying, “I wish we didn’t declare a group as villains in a public environment. This hurts me personally and every UW employee I know.”
Afterward, Marklein said Walker’s comment was a “very untimely and inappropriate statement, and I don’t think it advanced any kind of goal at all.”
“There’s a difference between comprehensive [universities] and UW–Madison,” said Tranel. “No one’s going around saying UW–Platteville professors aren’t teaching enough classes.”
Both Marklein and Tranel suggested afterward that the first version of the budget may not bear much resemblance to the last.
“The train hasn’t left the station yet; there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Tranel suggested maintaining the freeze only on in-state tuition. “If the market will bear a tuition increase for out-of-state students, that’s a place to increase revenue,” he said.
Before the session, Shields met with Marklein and Tranel and said, “I think they have a good perspective on what the budget cuts proposed by the governor would have as an impact on us.”
While a cut of $300 million would, based on past history, mean a cut of another $4.5 million at UW–Platteville, Shields said, “There still likely will be a cut, but it won’t be $150 million a year for each year of the biennium” across the UW System. “If it comes to that, we’ll have to sit down and say here are the programs we have to cut, here are the positions we have to cut.”
UW–Platteville received just 16 percent of its revenue from the state in this current academic year. UWP received $29 million from the state, but $12 million of that total was non-discretionary spending. UWP gets $15 million from the Tri-State Initiative to reduce tuition for Illinois and Iowa students.
“We’ve done a remarkable thing here, in part because of the initiative [former chancellor] David Markee had with the Tri-State Initiative,” said Shields. “We’re found a revenue source that works for us, and there’s about 180 positions on campus that are funded by the Tri-State Initiative.”
The statewide tuition freeze also affected the Tri-State Initiative in expanding the gap between UWP tuition and tuition of public Illinois colleges.
“I think when we have a discussion about tuition it needs to be more nuanced, and we need to engage in that discussion,” said Shields. “The key to us is that we are a point of access and affordability … that’s part of our mission.”
With the budget not yet introduced at press time, Shields said, “I think we have to be patient, I think we have to continue talking with our representatives and keep them informed about the impact, we have to give them the information that they can use in their caucus. I think we have to be charitable; there will be things said that if we react solely to that, it will probably hurt us more than it helps us.”