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Statement of UW-River Falls Chancellor Don Betz

Presented at UW-Stout by Mary Halada, UWRF vice chancellor for administration and finance

JULY 19, 2007--The recent vote by the Wisconsin Assembly to so harshly reduce funding for the University of Wisconsin-River Falls was both surprising and disappointing.

For the past six months, the University of Wisconsin-River Falls has strongly stated its case that, as an institution, we are poised to help the St. Croix Valley and the State of Wisconsin grow our economy. By providing access to students, ensuring that they have a quality academic experience, and by working with business and industry to create new, high paying jobs, we could take advantage of the unprecedented opportunities offered by our region's growth.

Those needs were recognized earlier in the public policy process through the budget submitted by Gov. Doyle, by the bipartisan Joint Finance Committee, and by the Wisconsin Senate, which supported fully funding our needs.

The Assembly version of the budget won't allow that to happen. Specifically, the Assembly Budget:

Will harm our neediest students. UWRF prides itself on being a point of access for first-generation college students and students with financial needs. The Assembly budget proposes no increases to the state's largest financial aid program, the Wisconsin Higher Education Grant. Without those increases, 200 UWRF students will be at financial risk. There are no other sources of aid for these students, and they will either be forced into taking expensive private loans, or not attending at all.

Should these students decide to forgo college because of the expense, UWRF would lose $1.1 million in tuition revenue and the state will lose college graduates who will boost the Wisconsin economy.

Would restrict access and erode quality . This version would cut UWRF's operational budget by $2.8 million over the next two years. By comparison, we had previously absorbed $3.7 million in cuts over the last six years. UWRF would receive $211,300 for its First Year Experience. That means for each $1 the Assembly would take away from its operational budget, UWRF will receive just 7.5 cents added to its operational budget.

These reductions in our base budget will severely hamper our intent to grow the university in a constructive manner to meet our region's needs. It will force us to reduce services to enrolled students, eliminate teaching and administrative positions, and reduce academic support in classrooms, laboratories and the library.

Will impede academic instruction in the future. The JFC and Senate budgets provide planning money for our Health & Human Performance Building. We have waited through four previous legislative sessions to advance this facility, which will be used for the instruction of more than 3,000 students each year.

The proposal by the Assembly to delay construction of other important academic buildings around Wisconsin will push this facility further down the construction list. Our Health and Human Performance project will experience a minimum delay of two years and most likely longer before we are able to replace our deteriorating, 49-year-old existing facility. The delay in construction will also mean the local region will lose another $16 million in materials purchasing and cost 190 construction jobs.

Will block students from taxing themselves for services they consider essential. The budget will cap student tuition and fees at 4 percent. UWRF students through their student government have shown they are willing to pay increases above this cap in such areas as access to health care. Why do some legislators want to impose their judgment from Madison when our students in River Falls are willing to set what they consider to be reasonable fees for services they value?

Will harm the local economy. The Assembly version will not allow construction of a $14.7 million addition to our South Fork Suites Residence Hall. This building would be constructed entirely by student user fees, which were approved by our students. This addition would provide $5.8 million in local spending and generate 70 construction jobs. These will be lost to our local economy.

Growing Wisconsin's economy is critical to the future of our state. Chancellors Don Betz, Charles Sorensen [UW-Stout] and Brian Levin-Stankevich [UW-Eau Claire] actively meet and collaborate, as do our faculty and staff on all three campuses, to determine the most effective ways that we can help business and industry to grow and succeed.

The Assembly budget will severely hamper our ability to continue this critical collaboration as these substantial budget cuts will cause us to retrench to our fundamental mission of undergraduate instruction at the expense of outreach to business, industry and government.

We urge the Conference Committee to use as its starting point in negotiations the budget submitted by Governor Doyle and the versions passed by the Joint Finance Committee and Wisconsin Senate.


Last updated: Thursday, 22-Apr-2010 16:08:24 Central Daylight Time


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