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Governor’s budget designed to help the university ‘bounce back’

February 18, 2021 By Dave Giroux

Calling higher education an economic driver for Wisconsin, Governor Tony Evers proposed a major reinvestment in the University of Wisconsin System.

Evers unveiled his proposed 2021-23 biennial state budget on Tuesday evening, recommending an additional $191 million in funding for the UW System. Breaking a decades-long trend, the budget calls for spending more on colleges than prisons.

In addition to covering ongoing costs for current UW System operations, the governor would provide an additional $40 million in flexible block grant funding to the Board of Regents. Although the budget would extend the current tuition freeze for two years, it would provide $50 million in new funding to offset that lost revenue. The budget earmarks $2 million for additional positions at UW Extension and UW–Madison’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and recommends enough funding to support 2% annual pay increases for all faculty and staff.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank thanked the governor for recognizing the role UW plays in educating tomorrow’s leaders.

“New investment in UW–Madison and other campuses means greater access to a college degree for Wisconsin high school graduates, a better educational experience for those who come here, more life-changing research and expanded outreach to all corners of our state,” said Blank.

UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson said the budget positions universities to respond to the state’s emerging needs.

“The budget shows that the governor recognizes the value we can deliver to all Wisconsinites, as we have during the COVID-19 pandemic. Where there is a problem, the UW wants to help — and the governor’s budget will allow us to do just that on some of Wisconsin toughest problems,” said Thompson.

Along with increased funding, the governor recommended new operational flexibilities to the UW institutions, including the ability to access credit markets for short-term borrowing and the authority to negotiate Minnesota/Wisconsin tuition reciprocity.

Emphasizing the need for broad access to higher education, the governor hopes to expand Bucky’s Tuition Promise statewide and increase funding for the Wisconsin Grant program by 10%.

The proposed operating budget now goes the legislature, where it will be taken up by the Joint Committee on Finance, then to each house for passage, and back to the governor for signature and/or vetoes.

The governor’s capital budget, covering buildings and major construction projects in the next biennium, is expected to be released in the next month.

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