Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Robert Cramer and his team are preparing for an additional $5 million cut to the University of Wisconsin-Platteville budget in addition to the ongoing $5 million structural deficit base cut already in place.
Chancellor Dennis Shields said the university is preparing for a $10 million cut — $5 million annually beginning July 1 — in budget open forums Monday and Tuesday.
Shields said he hopes the cuts will be less drastic.
“The indication I’ve gotten [from legislators] is that there’s some consensus that it’s too big a cut for the System to take, but we won’t know until deliberations end in June,” Shields said.
Approximately 200 people attended the meetings over the two days, and learned that the Platteville share of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $300 million cut could be an additional $4-$5 million. While the final decision is in the hands of the legislature, the chancellor offered a “hoping for the best and preparing for the worst” case scenario.
“That’s a crapshoot, I think, whether it will be good news or bad news,” Shields said.
Shields noted that in the past, cuts in state funding were accompanied by modest increases in tuition, but there is a tuition freeze in place this time.
“Right now, to cover these cuts, we would have to raise tuition by 15 percent,” Shields said.
As Shields walked his audiences through the budget process from the first Budget Open Session on Sept. 22 last year – a session dealing with the original $5 million structural deficit – his focus was on the big picture, the long-term outcome for the university.
“We’re going to try to protect the education we’re giving to students: retention, access to classes, the ability to graduate in four to five years,” Shields said. “Other things, if we are to cut them now, puts us in a worse position down the line. The devil’s in the details.”
With restrictions on travel and hiring already in place, university students, faculty and staff are already beginning to see and feel the effects.
“It’s safe to say that there are some things that they [students] may have to pay for that they don’t pay for now or pay a little more for some things,” Shields said. “It [the cut] may make some classes larger or there may be less availability for some classes.”
Still, the University Academic Budget Committee’s budget planning reduction and revenue recommendations don’t cover the entire cut.
“At UABC, we didn’t go deeper than $5 million,” Dawn Drake, director of UW-Platteville Alternative Delivery Systems said.
Shields explained that revenue is another part of reaching the $10 million goal, and cost-recovery programs will be under more pressure to support the university.
One such program is the Distance Learning Center.
“The DLC is a cost-recovery program, which means it receives not one penny from the university, not one penny from the state,” Dan Avenarius, Director of Distance Learning, said.
Because the DLC does not receive state funding, Avenarius does not foresee the loss of current staff members but the ability to hire new personnel may be affected.
The Budget Revenue Options compiled by the UABC include an increase in rent for DLC to $400,000 for each of the next two fiscal years, creating more revenue for the university.
Other revenue options include increasing the tuition of Tri-State Initiative students as well as that of international students, who pay higher rates.
“There are more [Wisconsin] residents matriculating at this institution than ever in history,” Shields said. “If the state’s not willing to pay, maybe we cap [the number of] residents and rely on TSI students a little more.”
Shields also mentioned differential tuition, which is in use at other UW System comprehensive institutions.
“The same tuition for every student may not make a lot of sense,” Shields said. “Right now you could argue that non-engineering students are subsidizing engineering students.”
Another option for the System is becoming a public authority, meaning that the System would become a public entity, but the universities would not be run or funded by the state. Becoming a public authority could offer the universities more autonomy.
“The upside would be the ability to control a number of different things: building projects, procurement and what we charge for tuition,” Shields said.
The downsides could include an impact on tenure and personnel policies, and Shields indicated that the flexibilities useful to UW-Platteville do not require establishing a public authority.
“Does every campus need a chancellor? A chief budget officer?” Shields asked. “Do we need 13 comprehensive campuses? I don’t know. Those will be hard discussions to have.”
Shields will be working on the budget over the next weeks with plans to announce how the university will proceed with this next round of budget challenges by the end of March. The budget is due to the System by April 15.