Grainger Hall, home of UW-Madison's business school (UW-Madison photo/Jeff Miller)
Updated: Thursday, 05 Mar 2009, 3:31 PM CST
Published : Thursday, 05 Mar 2009, 3:31 PM CST
MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Proposed budget cuts would force the University of Wisconsin
System to cut academic programs and impede its plans to educate
more students and do more research, university officials warned
President Kevin Reilly said the Growth Agenda - a long-term plan in which campuses boost enrollments, expand some academic programs and improve research - would be slowed under Gov. Jim Doyle's budget.
He said the budget requires the system to cut $120 million, or about as much as the state pays to educate 14,000 undergraduates in one year. Campuses would have to transfer another $54 million in revenue and savings from self-supported operations, such as residence halls, to help balance the state budget.
"The cuts are real, and they are very challenging," Reilly told the UW System Board of Regents. "Cuts of this magnitude will certainly impact our plans to grow enrollments and may well hurt the education our current students receive."
University officials promised to lobby lawmakers and the governor to have them restore some of the money. At the same time, they praised Doyle's efforts to expand financial aid and set aside $15 million to retain top faculty and staff.
The regents approved guidelines Thursday for campuses to follow as they develop budget-cutting plans. They include merging or eliminating unpopular or unnecessary academic programs, reducing travel and hiring, and slowing down the Growth Agenda, which Reilly has championed to increase the number of Wisconsin residents with college degrees.
Growth Agenda plans include expanding research at UW-Milwaukee, allowing UW-Eau Claire and UW-Stout to educate more students in science and technology, establishing more nursing programs, educating more adults through night classes and increasing enrollment at UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay.
The budget Doyle signed in 2007 included money to start some of the initiatives. But the one he proposed last week does not include any of the $29 million the regents wanted to continue the program.
Reilly said tuition would have to be increased systemwide by 17 percent to offset the proposed cuts, but he promised that would not happen. The tuition increases approved in July will be moderate and "will not come close to filling the budget gap as it now stands," he said.
Three UW System chancellors warned the regents that cuts would be painful.
UW-Madison Chancellor Biddy Martin said she asked deans on her campus to make plans to cut 5 percent from their budgets, about the amount required under Doyle's plan. It would mean fewer faculty and academic staff and less funding for graduate students in every college, she said.
Martin also said UW-Madison would have to limit the number of students who major in economics, chemistry, biology and Spanish and reduce admissions into some colleges, such as nursing. Mandatory courses for some majors would become less available, forcing students to stay in school longer to get a degree, Martin warned.
A reduction in faculty also would mean up to $20 million less in federal research money for the university every year, she said. Martin said the estimates were a worst-case scenario that she hopes won't come to pass.
"Let us take our share of the pain, but let us not undermine the extraordinary quality of a UW-Madison or a UW System degree," she said.
David Wilson, chancellor of UW Colleges and UW Extension, and UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said Doyle's plan for balancing the state budget was unfair.
Gow said it would force UW-La Crosse to give up money from student fees that had been saved for dormitory projects and maintenance. The UW Extension would have to transfer some donations made for public broadcasting and television and fees counties pay for services, Wilson said. That would antagonize its supporters, he said.
"The proposed budget cuts can have a tremendously severe and debilitating effect on us," Wilson said.
But Regent David Walsh, a close ally of the governor, warned against protesting the cuts too much given the dire shape of the economy.
"Of course, it's going to hurt everybody. We're all going to have to tighten our belts," he said. "But I promise you when you look around this economy, it's bad."