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Engineering building, reciprocity changes receive final approval

March 6, 2024 By Greg Bump
Rendering of the new College of Engineering Building

An artist’s rendering of the new College of Engineering building.

Gov. Tony Evers today, Wednesday, March 6, signed into law a series of bipartisan bills that include state funding for a new College of Engineering building, much-needed campus infrastructure projects, and changes to the Wisconsin-Minnesota reciprocity agreement allowing Universities of Wisconsin campuses to retain the full amount of tuition paid by Minnesota students.  

The legislation marks the latest phase of an agreement struck in December between Universities of Wisconsin leadership and legislative leaders.  

Taken together, the legislation represents a significant capital investment in higher education in Wisconsin and the future of the state’s economy, says University of Wisconsin–Madison Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin.   

“We are grateful to the legislature and governor for their support of UW–Madison’s priorities, in particular a new building for our College of Engineering, which will help us respond to Wisconsin’s critical workforce needs,” Mnookin says. “I also appreciate the overwhelming bipartisan support, a recognition of the need for investment in higher education and the significant contributions we make to the state through our mission of educating the next generation of leaders and innovating for the public good.  

“I look forward to continued cooperation with the governor, legislative leaders, the Board of Regents and Universities of Wisconsin leadership as we look toward supporting our students, our research enterprise and our campus infrastructure in future budgets,” she added. 

Read Chancellor Mnookin’s full statement

The new engineering facility is expected to cost about $347 million. Under the legislation signed by the governor, the state would provide $197 million, with the rest coming from private donations raised by the university. 

The 395,000-square-foot engineering building will be designed for sustainability and will be the centerpiece of UW–Madison’s seven-building engineering campus, housing adaptable facilities for active learning and research innovation and including dedicated space for industry partnerships. 

Ian Robertson, dean of UW–Madison’s College of Engineering, says the new building will be a catalyst for new opportunities at the school. 

“This is an exciting moment for your College of Engineering, a college that for the better part of 175 years has made a profound impact on generations of engineering students and on citizens in Wisconsin and around the globe,” Robertson says. “The new building will position our college to magnify this impact.”  

Full College of Engineering statement

The new building will permit the enrollment of around 1,000 additional undergraduates in engineering at a time when Wisconsin employers urgently need more engineers. The facility will also provide a state-of-the-art space to continue to attract and support exceptional faculty.   

The bills, which were approved by the State Senate and Assembly the week of February 19, also provide funding for renovations to Kronshage-Jorns-Humphrey Residence Halls, the South Central Utilities Improvement project and several demolition projects on campus. 

Finally, the changes approved to Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity will provide millions in needed tuition dollars to Universities of Wisconsin institutions, dollars that had previously been deposited in the state’s General Fund. Under the new tuition reciprocity bill, that money would instead be retained at the campuses where Minnesota students are enrolled.

On Feb. 20, Gov. Evers signed the Guaranteed Admissions bill, also part of the agreement, that ensures that the top 5 percent of students in Wisconsin high school classes are guaranteed admission to UW—Madison and the top 10 percent are guaranteed admission to any other Universities of Wisconsin campus. The changes take effect for the entering class of 2025. 

“It has always been UW–Madison’s goal to ensure that Wisconsin’s most academically talented high school students choose to attend the state’s flagship university,” Mnookin says. “We are looking forward to implementing this new program as one piece of our commitment to help us continue to enroll our state’s best and brightest students. We want students from every county of this great state to know that if they’re at the top of their high school class, UW–Madison can be for them.” 

The legislature’s Joint Finance Committee also approved the restoration of $32 million in Universities of Wisconsin funding cut from the state budget last summer. The Universities of Wisconsin offered a proposal to add capacity and develop talent in four key, high-demand fields: engineering, nursing/health care, business/finance and computer/data science. 

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