Wisconsin education in budget crisis

AUSTIN KRIEGER | Krieg004@rangers.uwp.edu

Wisconsin’s higher education budget was subject to a $250 million cut late last year. The bill was signed by Gov. Scott Walker a day before he entered into the race for republican presidential nomination. This decision has led to an increasing number of problems for UW schools across the state, including Parkside and state universities in Illinois who have not received any state funding for the last 8 months.  

Parkside in debt

Ranger news turned to Parkside’s Director of  Strategic Communications, John Mielke, and Vice Chancellor for finance and administration, Mel Klinkner,  for answers. The first and maybe the most important question asked was, how much debt is Parkside currently in? That current figure is approximately $45.4 million.

This number is a collection of debt accumulated through two different types of funding,  General Purpose Revenue (GPR) and Program Revenue (PR). GPR is the money allocated to an institution by state legislature which goes exclusively toward academic buildings and supplies related to academics.

PR on the other hand is based upon construction of residence halls and other non-academic buildings utilized by students. Fortunately a large quantity of this debt is based upon bonds, like mortgages, to construct buildings such as Pike River Suites. Similar to the way most people are not in possession of enough money to purchase a home, the institute must also borrow money to pay for construction and development costs.

Funding cut

This borrowing is planned out by a board of directors to ensure that revenue projections align with on time payments of bonds. In other words, debt that is appropriate to the success of an institution. On another note, the very recent budget cut to the UW system is an unforeseen obstacle for all UW campuses. This will pay into the budget plans not only this year but those to follow.

Parkside was hit individually with a $1.9 million cut from state funding. This has led to changes within faculty and staff including the removal of administrative positions and the decision to not hire new applicants. These positions eliminated are not exclusive to faculty, but does includes professors and lecturers.

Budget tightening

Klinkner goes on record as saying “We have set, as our institution as well as other institutions, our priority in students and the opportunity for them to get an excellent education at our institution…and to walk out of here successful.” Administrative staff has tightened budgets on many aspects of the institute but maintain a strong focus on student success and quality of education. Though overall enrollment has gone down the past years, retention and graduation of students has been able to maintain a stable revenue flow. This will help to make  better case to legislature as to why Parkside deserves the requested  funding .  

Difficulties statewide

Parkside as an institution is not unique to the situation we are in, compared to UW schools throughout the state. On an individual basis we are a successful institution that caters to a wide radius of job markets between the Racine and Chicago areas. Though changes are in affect based upon recent budget cuts, Parkside staff assures that they are hopeful in looking to the future and ensuring the quality of education provided to students, which is the number one priority.

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