“Higher education is a dynamic environment,” University of Wisconsin-Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields expressed when addressing points in his State of the University address he gave Tuesday, Jan. 31 to community members and members of the Platteville City Council.
Shields focused on student outcomes and helping students know where they want to start in college and where they want to end up while achieving the degree in four, 4 ½ to 5 years, improving retention of students from freshman to sophomore years and the overall graduation rate during the current budget constrains.
Shields calls UW-Platteville an “access and affordable university”. About 30 to 40 percent of UW-Platteville students are the first generation in their families to attend college and a significant portion come from modest means and may be eligible for financial aid.
“Now is the time for the state to reinvest in higher education, both by supporting need-based aid and investing in faculty and staff,” he said, adding that every additional year in college costs $15,000 to $20,000 and increasing the needs-based financial aid will help students be more focused on completing their courses.
Shield pointed out that the economic impact UW-Platteville has on the state is $395 million, with three-fourths of that in Southwest Wisconsin, being Southwest Wisconsin’s largest employer. UW-Platteville also provides 23% of all the engineers in the state.
“Students that come to UW-Platteville stay in Wisconsin. I am traveling to cities and towns to get the message out about the university and to listen to people in the community to find out ways to be supportive.”
Supporting the students, Shields stated, can be by encouraging them to be engaged in on campus activities or pursue out-of-classroom education experiences including internships, coops and Study Abroad.
“Helping them be more engaged on campus, allows them to achieve at a better rate and succeed at a better rate.”
Another way of investing into students and the university is the need for infrastructure, with remodeling the 2nd and 3rd floors of the science hall, Boebel Hall and building a new engineering hall.
“Engineering is now taught completely different. Classrooms need to be different, equipment needs to be newer. We have the number one remodeling project on the region’s list and want to move forward.”
Shields mentioned that the legislative members from the region, Rep. Travis Tranel, Rep. Todd Novak and Sen. Howard Marklein have been supportive and engaged with the university and support many of their projects.
“But they need to hear from a lot of people to keeping supporting us. They need to hear reasons why others are advocates for us toward legislations and reinvest in higher education.”