(Our mistake — an unfortunate drafting error meant that one of our informational points was misleading. The following list is updated with the correct information.)
Here are the top 10 things you need to know about what the proposed budget means:
- The proposed cuts — at $300 million — are brutal. For the next two years, $150 million will be cut from the UW System each year. This is the equivalent of cutting the entire operating budget of UW-Green Bay each year.
- Tuition will likely increase, making the university less accessible for working-class families. In 2017, the Board of Regents will have full authority to set tuition. The combination of tuition freezes from 2013-2017 paired with drastic cuts will likely mean the Board of Regents will pursue aggressive tuition hikes to compensate for reduced revenue. Skyrocketing tuition is a hallmark feature of other public authority-style universities, such as University of Michigan and University of Virginia.
- The proposed budget will force the poorest families to pay disproportionately for the university. After 2017, the state’s base funding for the university system will come entirely from sales tax, inordinately burdening lower income and working class families. Meanwhile, Governor Walker has proposed some of the state’s historically lowest property taxes, making it so that those who own property pay less towards public infrastructure.
- The university system will no longer be required to recruit minority and disadvantaged students. The university already could do much more to recruit and retain students of color, first generation students, and students from other oppressed and disadvantaged groups. The proposed budget lifts the state’s requirements on maintaining current efforts to this effect.
- The university system will no longer be required to provide orientation information about sexual harassment and assault. Sexual assault and harassment occurs with disturbingly high frequencies on college campuses. At a time when many other universities are developing anti-sexual harassment policies for students and staff to address these problems, the proposed budget lifts requirements on the UW System for sexual assault awareness.
- The budget gives the regents the power to close educational programs and areas of studies of their choosing. Programs and study areas that do not generate profit for the university, or those that ask questions fundamentally antagonistic to “workforce development” may become targets for future closings. Already, programs such as the Chican@ Studies program and the Center for Investigative Journalism have come under threat. This proposal would give the Regents full power to close these programs.
- The mission of the university may become more beholden to private interests. A public authority model gives the university specific flexibilities to seek funding from private companies and wealthy donors. Further, declining state aid means the university must seek financial support from such sources. This threatens the basic principles of academic freedom, as it positions research and educational agendas to become congruent with profit motives, rather than principles of open-minded inquiry.
- The proposed budget degrades workers’ rights for faculty, academic staff, and classified employees. For example, universities will no longer be required to provide faculty tenure nor will they be required to permit employees to accumulate sick leave.
- Reducing state aid to the university hurts the state’s economic growth. According to a 2011 economic impact study, for every $1.00 of state tax investment in the UW-Madison, there was $21.05 gained in economic activity in the state. For the $83 million the UW-Madison would lose in the first year of Walker’s cuts, Wisconsin would lose about $1.75 billion in economic activity (which also creates tax revenue!). Reducing state contributions to the University will also reduce the huge economic contribution that investment returns to the state.
- There is an alternative. While Wisconsin is slashing its education budget, neighboring states of Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio are increasing state funding for higher education. These states have pursued progressive tax policies to generate high levels of investment for the public good of the state.
There is an alternative but it must be fought for. Our union is a fighting organization.