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Regents warn against future budget cuts

August 27, 2002

The UW System will need to reduce enrollments or increase tuition if state funding does not improve.

That was the message the UW System Board of Regents heard Aug. 22 as it unanimously approved a 2003-05 biennial budget proposal that acknowledges the state’s grim economic picture and does not request any new state funding, but maintains current levels.

“I feel strongly that we have come to the end of our capacity to maintain quality with growing enrollments and declining base resources,” UW System President Katharine Lyall says. “Over the past decade, we have absorbed almost $100 million in base cuts while continuing to admit more students in response to enrollment pressures. We have now “hit the wall.’ We cannot continue this trend.”

The board’s budget request also calls for several changes to state law that would give the regents more flexibility in managing the university. These changes include allowing the UW System to keep the interest earned from tuition revenue and giving the regents full authority to set tuition rates.

The regents also approved a funding request for future consideration by state lawmakers to maintain educational quality and for several collaborative projects to improve the Wisconsin economy, and address teacher and nursing shortages.

Several regents describe the budget request as “prudent” and “responsible.”

“I hope the taxpayers appreciate our efforts here,” says Regent Roger Axtell of Janesville.

Regents also approved a capital budget request—separate from the university’s operating budget proposal—which seeks $143 million in state-supported bonding for a number of major construction projects on UW System campuses.

The university is providing $203 million from gift and grant funds and program revenue to offset the state share. This request is $80 million less than the amount of state bonding requested for major projects in 2001-03.

On the UW–Madison campus, the capital budget recommendation lists six projects for various stages of development using a variety of funding sources.

The capital budget proposal recommends three construction projects that would use state-supported borrowing, including a new University Health Services/Student Activities Center ($17 million borrowing and $17 million from other sources), Integrated Dairy Program-Phase II ($4.8 million borrowing and $3.4 million from other sources), and the Biological Systems Engineering Lab ($6.3 million borrowing and $6.3 million from other sources). The renovation of Sterling Hall is slated to enter the planning phase.

There are two projects listed that use no state-supported borrowing, including $20 million in program revenue for new parking ramps and $5.3 million in program revenue to purchase a materials distribution services facility.