Governor Walker’s Budget Offers More Questions than Solutions

When Governor Walker unveiled his new budget, one of the key components was a thirteen percent cut of state funding for the University of Wisconsin higher education system. Widespread concern throughout the UW system spread. Chancellors from different UW branches talked of how this would affect their schools, and ultimately the students. But what do we really know about the impact of this budget? How will it affect us here at UW-Parkside? The answer seems to be a resounding: “We are not quite sure.”

Here is what we do know. We know that the Governor has done this before. We know that when things get cut, they stay cut, and there is no use in trying to get him to change his mind. He has a very precise idea of what he wants, and whether you agree with it or not, he is going to carry that idea forward. So where does that leave the UW system as a whole? More directly, where does that leave UW-Parkside and Parkside students? Let’s look at it from large scale to small.

This budget will go into effect in two years, beginning in the year 2017. That means the system has two years to figure out how it is going to handle the reduction of funding. Throughout the system the consensus seems to be that in order to function under the new budget, there will have to be a serious loss of jobs, first and foremost. The Chancellor of UW-Milwaukee forecast a loss of 200 to 300 personnel, UW-Stout predicted 50 to 90 and UW-Stevens Point estimated around 115. The leaders of both UW-Madison and UW-River Falls have said that there seems to be no way to avoid layoffs and that there is a high possibility that jobs will be cut. But what type of jobs?

The Chancellor of UW-Milwaukee said that it would have to start with Administrative jobs first, then there would be a decrease in full-time professors with a switch to more part-time adjunct professors, then research funding would be cut and finally, costs to students. Here at UW-Parkside, this reporter was told by a reliable source that is currently teaching here that already ten current teachers that hold multiple positions within their departments have been told that they will not be coming back. Another source who is a long time professor here said, on the condition of anonymity, that he was aware of professors either losing their jobs entirely or getting pay cuts, while administration was being given raises. A student senator told us that when discussing the budget with the Chancellor here at Parkside, the perception was that our Chancellor was unsure of exactly what was going on.

We do know that there is a tuition freeze that lasts until 2017, so if you are going to graduate within that time frame, you do not have to be concerned about that. But it seems like you do have to be concerned about larger classes, fewer teachers being asked to accomplish more tasks and possibly a smaller administration staff to assist you with your non-scholastic concerns. After 2017 there is a big cloud of confusion as to what will happen to the students. The Governor was asked and he said that there would be an “inflation-based cap” on tuition, but that was not specifically written in the budget. This reporter encourages all of you to go to the webpage, and at the bottom of the page there are links to view a budget summary, the governor’s speeches and transcripts as well as reactions to this budget. What we do know is that the UW-system is losing money from the state. What we don’t know is how hard it will hit us and in what fashion, and not knowing seems to be worse than the facts.

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