Cuts to UW system

Walker’s budget diminishes quality of education

Governor Scott Walker’s 2015-2017 proposed budget to cut substantial funds from the University of WI system, which includes a total of 26 schools, is not only the wrong course for WI, but sets a dangerous precedent that puts quality public education in jeopardy.

The budget cuts $300 million from the University of WI system over the next two years and an additional $275 million annually from 2017 on – the largest cut in history. Walker and his supporters claim that, combined with new construction and contracting flexibilities, UW could create savings of at least 13% of the university’s total budget. Instead of making the UW system more efficient, as Walker claims, the proposed changes would do the opposite.

A harmful and disturbing trend of cuts from public education in recent decades has been directly linked to the diminishing quality of those institutions. In a poor economic state, state governments have opted to cut higher education funding, but instead of funneling money back into the institutions when the economy improves, they cut more. State governments allocated 13% of their total budget to public universities in 2000. Instead of building back up the lost money, state governments allocated only 9.5% of their total funds to public universities as of 2014. According to Bloomberg View, the cuts in the past five years result in $1000 less for each student attending a public college.

Tuition hikes are capable of limiting the spending cuts, but the raises would create an unparalleled struggle for families and students, so instead, states subject professor’s salaries to cuts. According to Bloomberg View, in 1980, professors at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, two prestigious public schools, made as much as people in similar positions at the University of Chicago and Rice University, two high-achieving private universities. Now, the public professors are earning 20% less than those in an equal position at private universities.

These proposed cuts go much further than past cuts, and would have an irreversible effect on UW students and the overall quality of UW schools. Tuition hikes would make it harder for poorer students to attend UW schools, while more affluent students would simply make the decision to attend out-of-state universities that receive adequate funding. Continual cuts to professors’ pay would cause the best professors to seek higher-paying jobs at other universities, which they would most likely get. Additionally, professors’ grant money would travel with them to their next school, limiting UW’s research opportunities. Finally, these proposed cuts would result in layoffs and more work for the remaining professors, and the elimination of a number of beneficial classes, changes which will, without a doubt, negatively affect UW schools’ quality of education.

According to U.S. News & World Report, UW-Madison, the poster school of the UW system, was ranked as the nation’s 47th best university in 2015. The adverse effects of Walker’s new budget would lower UW-Madison’s ranking, just as it has with the ever-decreasing numbers of public universities on that list.

Walker’s budget proposition, which came just hours before his call to raise $220 million for a new Buck’s stadium, is the opposite of what needs to be done and would be catastrophic to the future of public higher education in WI. Our politicians need to continue to fund public institutions to the best of their ability in order to ensure a future of excellent public higher education.

by the Ripples staff

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