By Cadence Bambenek
During a campus budget forum held Wednesday evening at the Gordon Dining and Event Center, University of Wisconsin Chancellor Rebecca Blank asserted now is the time for the state to reinvest in higher education.
Blank provided an update to a room of about 100 students, staff, faculty and state legislators on the university’s current budget outlook, as well as the budget request proposed by the UW System.
While public universities outside of Wisconsin have started to see more state dollars since the recovery from the Great Recession, Blank pointed that the UW System has seen funding cuts five out of the last six state budgets. States that increased support for higher education between fiscal years 2014 and 2016 increased it at an average rate of 4.1 percent per year. Meanwhile, the UW System saw a decline of about 8.1 percent in state support, Blank said.
Now, Blank asserted, is the time to reinvest in Wisconsin’s higher education system to not only catch up to the state investment of other universities, but to get ahead. To make up the lost ground, she said, the UW System is not only looking to appeal to the Wisconsin Legislature but to engage and build up support across the state.
Noel Radomsky, Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education associate researcher and managing director, said the UW System president, the Board of Regents and the chancellors seem to be on the same page with investing in higher education.
Still, Radomsky noted, there is a major constraint to redirect state dollars to higher education. All aspects of the state budget are competing against the largest cost of Medicaid. With an aging population, Radomsky said, there is an inflating fixed cost that eats away at the state budget, leaving less for the state to allocate to other areas, such as higher education.