The week before students resume or begin classes at UW–Platteville, their educational institution got big news Monday.
Two long-sought UWP projects — $55 million for a new engineering hall and $24 million for the second phase of the renovation of Boebel Hall — were added to the 2017–19 state budget by the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee.
The vote does not mean the projects are a 100-percent certainty, but the JFC’s inclusion of the projects in the 2017–19 budget means they would have be voted out of the budget by the Legislature, or line-item vetoed by Gov. Scott Walker, to be removed from the 2017–19 budget.
“I am thrilled that all of the hard work to promote UW–Platteville’s building projects was successful,” said Sen. Howard Marklein (R–Spring Green), a member of the committee, in a news release Monday. “These facilities will expand capacity for engineering and the sciences at UW–Platteville. As we look at the Foxconn project in southeastern Wisconsin, these projects become even more important.”
“Thrilled” is a good description of UWP chancellor Dennis Shields as well.
Shields thanked the JFC and its cochairs, Sen. Alberta Darling (R–River Hills) and John Nygren (R–Marinette), Marklein, and Reps. Travis Tranel (R–Cuba City) and Todd Novak (R–Dodgeville), along with “so many people, including our faculty, staff and students, alumni and community leaders,” who “advocated on our behalf.”
The JFC held its first budget hearing at UW–Platteville April 3, with several speakers advocating for the two projects.
“UW–Platteville has built a reputation as a leader in STEM education, especially engineering,” said Novak in a news release. “Demand for these types of majors continues to increase, and these projects will help ensure that UW–Platteville has the proper resources to educate our future workforce.”
The UW System Board of Regents included the projects on its 2017–19 budget request last August. Boebel Hall was the UW System’s top renovation priority out of more than 70 proposed renovation projects, and Sesquicentennial Hall was the only new proposed building in the 2017–19 UW System budget proposal.
“These two projects are important to build on the university’s strength in the STEM fields. And for that reason, it is important to Wisconsin’s workforce development and growth,” said Shields in a news release. “UW–Platteville graduates the second-highest number of engineers in the state, and this new engineering building will allow us to educate up to an additional 800 freshmen and 200 transfer students. The Boebel Hall renovations will transform 17 laboratories into modern facilities for STEM education.
“Approximately 75 percent of our engineering graduates stay in Wisconsin, and this vote by the JFC is an important next step in the legislative process and help us continue to strengthen the state’s workforce.”
Marklein added that 80 percent of UWP’s incoming engineering students last fall were state residents, and that return on investment for in-state students, 11.4 percent, was the best in the UW System.
“UW–Platteville engineering students are employed by Wisconsin companies like the Kohler Co., Kimberly–Clark, Georgia–Pacific, Alliant Energy and more,” said Marklein. “The average annual starting salary is $57,000. When we invest in UW–Platteville, we invest in Wisconsin.”
Sesquicentennial Hall would replace Ottensman Hall, which Marklein said “was built in the 1960s, and Boebel Hall, which houses many other STEM-related courses, has labs that barely support their basic needs. While the engineering program has made do and some of the labs have been modernized, the buildings cannot support modern laboratory curriculum and instruction. It also cannot handle any more growth and the UW–Platteville engineering and STEM programs are flourishing.”
UWP’s mechanical and industrial engineering programs are now housed in Ottensman Hall and are slated for Sesquicentennial Hall.
Sesquicentennial Hall would augment Engineering Hall, which was built in 2008 with UW–Platteville and the UW–Platteville Foundation funding 60 percent of the building.
The funding for Boebel Hall would be the second of three slated phases of renovation of the building.
If the Boebel Hall phase two remains in the budget that is approved by the state Assembly and Senate and signed by Gov. Scott Walker, construction is slated to begin in October 2019 and be completed in December 2021. If Sesquicentennial Hall remains in the budget, construction is scheduled to begin in September 2021 and be completed in December 2023.