Thursday, October 11, 2018

UW's resources and enrollment drop. Walker's Board of Regents aren't going to help

One item lurking in the background of the state's elections is the future of the University of Wisconsin System. And the new enrollment figures and financial reports for the 2018-19 school year aren't going to help.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently had an in-depth look at those finances and enrollment at the UW, which the Board of Regents discussed at their most recent meeting. (You also can check out the report to the Board of Regents for yourself here, if you wish.)
UW increasingly has been relying on program revenue — money that does not come from state taxes or federal appropriations — to support the enterprise. Program revenue include tuition, student fees, housing and dining services revenue, parking revenue, gifts, federal grants and contracts.

In 1998, program revenue made up 65.6 percent of total funding for the UW System. Today, it's 82 percent.

Overall, state tax dollars make up 17.2 percent of the UW System's operating budget.
Remember that faux-trage about carryover costs for UW campuses a few years back? They're still looking at that as well.
However, a $30.5 million balance increase exists at UW System administration to account for variances in costs such as utilities and fringe benefits, according to UW officials.

All told, the UW System and its campuses have cut unspent tuition money carried from year to year by 23.9 percent — from $395.4 million in fiscal 2014 to $300.9 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30.
I think it also worth noting that these are the figures as of June 30. Obviously, there isn’t going to be a lot of new tuition or dorm bills paid until August or early September, but people still work at those schools between July and September, so understandably there would be a need to “float” money until the start of the school year.

Perhaps if we want to talk about “reform” to UW financing, maybe we should discuss comparing what they look like on July 31 or August 15, just because of the different timings of cash flow. Sure, all of this is arbitrary and you need to have the same point-in-time comparisons regardless of how you do it, but if you want to know how much UW has in “excess”, maybe you should use the time after the reserves are used up?

Another item we found out last week were the enrollment counts for 2018-19, many UW System schools are suffering enrollment declines this year.

2018-19 Change in enrollment, UW System campuses

All of those schools in red will now have even fewer resources than projected, since in-state tuition has been frozen and little new funding has been provided by state government.
Overall, the UW System's 26 campuses collectively lost 2,598 students, compared with a year ago — dropping from a total 173,425 students to 170,827, or an enrollment decline of 1.5%.

UW campuses have been dealing with enrollment losses and state budget cuts for several years, and they are taking a toll, campus leaders say.

Faculties on campuses are shrinking through attrition — many faculty members who leave are not being replaced — and some course offerings are being dropped both because campuses are stretched for faculty, and student enrollments are declining.
The only campus that continues to notably grow in enrollment is the one that relies the least on in-state tuition revenue and state funding – the flagship at UW-Madison, which gained 656 students and had more than 44,000 students as school began in September.

By comparison, 6 of the 13 4-year campuses had fewer students for 2018-19, and often those losses were compounded by losses that happened in the wake of a merger between the 2-year UW Colleges and nearby 4-year campuses.
UW-Stevens Point could lose about $3.2 million in tuition if its 10-day headcount holds. That doesn't include losses to its Marshfield and Wausau satellite campuses.

UW-Stevens Point reported that as of the first 10 days this semester, its main campus was down 483 students — a 5.9 percent drop from 8,208 students a year ago to 7,725 in mid-September. Its two satellite campuses in Marshfield and Wausau are projecting 10 percent and 11.6 percent enrollment losses — collective losses of 144 students, and about $740,000 in tuition and fees.

UW-Platteville stands to lose about $4 million in tuition and student fees if its 10-day headcount holds. That doesn't include losses to its Baraboo Sauk County and Richland campuses.

UW-Platteville reported that as of the first 10 days of the semester, its main campus was down 472 students — a 5.5 percent drop from 8,558 to 8,086.

Its two satellite campuses in Baraboo and Richland Center are projecting 9.5 percent and 27.1 percent enrollment losses — collective losses of 118 students, and about $600,00 in tuition and fees, compared with a year ago.
And that continues a downward trend from 2017, when UW Colleges and Stevens Point also suffered drops.
Preliminary enrollment numbers are down by more than 2% this fall on more than half of University of Wisconsin System's campuses, draining millions in tuition and fee revenue and challenging campuses to make up for demographic shifts in the state's population.

The two-year UW Colleges collectively took the largest hit in the preliminary numbers — 904 students, or 7.5% — followed by UW-Stevens Point, with a loss of 462 students, or 5.4%.

Last fall, total enrollment at the 13 UW Colleges campuses dropped 22.3%, and total enrollment at UW-Stevens Point fell 6.8%.
This seems like a big-time funding problem, and you'd think it would strike up discussion from the Regents at their meeting, since they were supposed to get a report on how the merger between the Colleges and 4-year schools was going. But instead, it appeared there was nothing but happy talk from the Walker-stacked Board, who probably didn't want to reveal the hard truths about the effects of the WisGOP/ALEC wrecking crew ahead of next month's elections.

If these right-wing lackeys really gave a damn about improving the UW System, they'd be concerned that the Colleges/branch campuses are going to be losing significant funding due to these big enrollment drops, and the enrollment drops and loss of faculty indicate that maybe this thing shouldn't have been shoved through from the top-down on a span of 11 months.

The only way we will get an honest assessment and a real chance to make the UW System survive in the 2010s and 2020s is to remove the ALEC/GOP crew from the Capitol and the Board of Regents. Or else there will be more destructive schemes to come from something that used to be one of the great advantages that Wisconsin used to have over the rest of the nation.


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  2. And we find out today from Dem Assembly Leader Gordon Hintz that UW-Oshkosh will have to cut faculty and staff to deal with funding deficits.

    This thing is deteriorating fast, and the bleeding has to stop NOW. Please vote wisely in 25 days if you give a damn about the UW.