Back in February, there was uproar among Wisconsin educators and union workers when newly elected Governor Scott Walker announced his Budget Repair Bill and its intentions to strip collective bargaining. Nearly eight months later, the University of Wisconsin School system took yet another hit when it discovered that its deficit battles were far from reconciled.
On Friday, 14 October, the UW-System learned that it may face up to 65.7 million dollars worth of cuts in funding. This cut could equate to a total loss of 1.52 million from Parkside alone between 2011 and 2013, the bulk of that figure coming out of the 2012 fiscal year.
Back in February, the state projected revenues to grow 2-3%. This includes and is not limited to income tax, sales tax and fees. However, as the end of the year approaches, there is a fear that Wisconsin will not meet those revenues. As a result, funding cuts have become a plausible source of income. When the biennial budget was signed in June, educators knew that there was potential for more cuts with the $174 million lapse; however, educators did not anticipate the severity of the subsequent cuts.
“In that budget repair bill, there was a potential for more reductions if the revenue projections were not on target,” said Vice Chancellor Steve Mclaughlin. “Because the economy lagged, those projections have not been met, and they decided that in order to keep the budget balanced, they are going to have to take more cuts. It will certainly make it challenging for Parkside and the UW-System,”
Currently, the UW-system accounts for 7% of the state’s expenditures. Yet, under the current proposal, the state will acquire 38% of its revenue from the UW-system. This inequity has left many educators and administration members in a state of anxiety, as they are unsure where these cuts will be made.
UW-Parkside prides itself on being accessible and affordable. However, its affordability may be threatened with the potential of tuition hikes in the coming fiscal year. With the potential of tuition increases and salary cuts, the UW-System fears the accessibility and quality of education in the state.
“It is paramount in our thinking. I know the chancellor is very concerned about the accessibility of education, and ironically, education is the key to getting our economy moving. We want to do everything we can to make sure our students have that opportunity” said Mclaughlin.
In a recent email, Budget and Planning Associate Vice President Freda Harris addressed the aforementioned issues. She acknowledged both the state’s serious financial challenges and the UW-system’s preparedness for a General Purpose Revenue lapse; yet, she recommended that the cuts be allocated more fairly. She requested that the UW-System preserve GPR funded utilities, financial aid programs, mission-critical programs and 24/7 service providers when reallocating fees and budgets.
In fashion with Vice President Harris’ recommendations, the University of Wisconsin Parkside will need to find ways to preserve quality of education under economic strife. Parkside faculty and staff will continue to work diligently to provide as best they can for the community.
“It will certainly require us to be more creative and entrepreneurial,” said Mclaughlin. “Ultimately, we are trying our best to maintain instructional opportunities and keeping them foremost in our thinking,”