Friday, October 11, 2019

Yes, UW--Madison is different from the rest of the UW. And needs less state help

Just in time for UW-Madison's Homecoming weekend, the UW Board of Regents just had a meeting in Superior where one of the topics dealt with how much money from outside sources the campuses were getting, and how much of it was being spent.

One item that complicates the situation is that much of this money is not a “slush fund” (as GOPs falsely called it 6 years ago) that can be used for whatever the university wants, but instead is tied up with the wishes of donors and grantors.
"A donor says we want you to do this with that money," Cross said. "So, that becomes a restricted pot of money and it shows up on our fund balance because it hasn’t been spent yet or it is being spent in increments as we accomplish something."

Cross said it's obvious that the ongoing tuition freeze has made campuses more reliant on other sources of funds and they've gotten better at bringing in donations.

"But it's also an indicator that people don’t want us to lose quality," said Cross. "And I don’t care whether the money comes from the state or comes from tuition. We have to think that through. But we cannot just let the quality of a UW education diminish. That’s just critically important."

According to budget documents provided to regents, the UW System received more than $1.7 billion in total gifts, grants and private contracts during the 2018-2019 fiscal year. Of that, 80 percent went to UW-Madison.
This reiterates 2 ongoing points I have made with UW funding in recent years.

1. The tuition freeze has not helped the universities get by. And it has the (intended?) effect of making private donors and other outside funding be something the UW schools have to rely on. Just like the ALEC crew would want it – a couple of big-money oligarchs can get outsized influence on the schools in this type of situation, because their donations can direct what gets taught (or not taught).

It is a really big check….

2. UW-Madison has an entirely different type of funding mix than any other UW campus. They have the donors and research dollars to not need as much state funding to stay afloat.

Even though Madison has 80% of the gifts, grants and contracts, and nearly 44% of the tuition-based expenses in the System (because it has more out of state students), it has barely more than 1/4 of the total UW System enrollment. This indicates that the other UW campuses rely a lot more in state funding than Bucky does.

It's why I’ve frequently said UW-Madison’s funding situation should be de-linked from every other UW school. Redirect the overwhelming majority of state funding to all other UW campuses, and give large amounts of financial aid for Wisconsin students in general, allowing them a better chance to pick the school of their choice should they get accepted.

If you want a long-ranging reform on UW funding, this would be a good one. And it can make for a win-win situation where Republicans send fewer state tax dollars to “those lib’ruls in Madison”, the other UW System schools have a better chance of viability because they get more state funding, and Wisconsin students can have their affordability concerns lessened because of a higher amount of financial aid that is made available.

This seems like a better use of resources to deal with the realities of higher education funding at UW-Madison and the rest of the System in 2019. Because the current handcuffs of stagnant state funding and frozen tuition is starving a gem that used to set the state apart from others, and it’s gotta end.

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