Dear Faculty and Staff,
As we wind down the spring semester, I write with the latest financial updates including Wisconsin’s 2021-23 biennial and capital budgets. With more activity expected, please look for state budget updates throughout the summer, and see the end of this message for actions you can take now. I want to state upfront how grateful I am for everyone’s contributions to our budgetary challenges this last year, including taking furloughs and reducing expenses. These sacrifices have not been easy, but have been extremely beneficial to UWM, and I extend my thanks.
Federal Relief Funding
In spring of 2020, UWM received $17M in CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) funding to assist with hardships caused by COVID. Half of that funding ($8.5M) was distributed directly to Pell-eligible students for emergency financial assistance. Approximately 8,909 grants were made with an average award of $950. Students used these grants for housing, laptops, food, course materials, health care and childcare.
The other half of the 2020 HEERF funding was used primarily to pay refunds to students who terminated their housing and dining contracts, with the remaining amount used to pay for direct COVID expenses including additional online instructional technology. Although UWM experienced $20M in revenue losses in the spring of 2020, the HEERF funding, combined with significant expense reductions, allowed UWM to complete FY 2020 without an operating deficit, in aggregate across all units.
In spring of 2021, UWM received another $28.3M through the second phase of federal funding, under HEERF II. Another $8.5M was allocated to students for tuition, food, housing, health care and childcare, which provided 8,883 grants to UWM students with an average award of $958 in April of 2021.
The remaining funding UWM received under HEERF II — $19.8M — is required to be used for direct COVID-related expenses and losses. We are currently projecting that this funding, along with nearly $30M in realized expense reductions, will allow UWM to mitigate over $50M in COVID-related losses this year. The largest losses occurred in, and thus the federal assistance will be used in, the Auxiliary units such as Housing, Dining and Transportation Services. While the Auxiliary operations will still have some continued budget deficits, we expect the HEERF funding will allow UWM to end FY 2021 without an operating deficit, in aggregate across all units.
Also, due to the excellent work of faculty and staff to manage COVID-related losses, along with the federal funding, we have now made decisions to deploy campus reserves to address several critical needs over the summer and next fall, including:
- Yield scholarships ($500) for students who confirm attendance for fall 2021 during the period of May 10-31
- 500 additional student retention grants with an average award of $1,000
- Micro-scholarships for an additional 200 students to participate in bridge programs
- Additional scholarship funding for approximately 670 high school students from the City of Milwaukee to participate in dual enrollment at UWM
- A “First Choice” marketing campaign to support recruitment
- Technology updates in summer 2021 to approximately 200 classrooms including at the branch campuses that will support lecture capture and other digital learning tools
- Networking infrastructure upgrades at both the main and branch campuses
- Funding for three additional Discovery and Innovation Grant (DIG) research awards which had been reduced previously due to funding restrictions
UWM has been notified that it will receive a third round of funding, HEERF III. We are extremely pleased that this round is expected to provide approximately $25M in emergency funding for students. The funding for students will be distributed in two rounds, over the fall 2021 and spring 2022 semesters, including undocumented and international students. UWM has been notifying students of this pending funding for next year and encouraging all students to complete FAFSA applications to establish eligibility.
UWM also expects to receive institutional funds of approximately $25M. This funding can be used only for direct COVID-related expenses and losses. However, we anticipate we will continue to use UWM operating funds to make strategic investments to support student success, research, and diversity, equity and inclusion. It is important to note that HEERF III is expected to be the last round of federal stimulus. UWM must work together to bring back enrollments and students to campus to sustain our mission moving forward.
Importance of Enrollment Yield and Retention
The ability to retain current students and secure confirmations of fall attendance from admitted students, both incoming freshmen and transfers, is critical to our financial future. The Office of the Provost is leading many new activities through Enrollment Management and Student Success to help us secure new students and support our current students. Examples include a Panther Tour Bus visiting admitted students across Wisconsin and northern Illinois as well as personal communications to prospective students, and more. Your positive interactions with our current students and your efforts to encourage applicants to secure their enrollment at UWM, are critically important. All of us can make a difference.
Due in part to the boost from stimulus funding, UWM will not impose intermittent furloughs in 2021-22 unless the fall of 2021 brings unanticipated financial circumstances, such as a deep additional loss in enrollment. We will continue to make position specific furloughs available to units as a budgetary tool until at least June 30, 2022.
As employees are finishing the last of intermittent furloughs this fiscal year, we urge all monthly-paid employees to take time to understand the impact of Single Payroll that will take effect across all of UW System in July 2021. This change is called “Single Payroll” because all employees will be paid under one payroll cycle every two weeks, with mandatory benefits deductions spread across two paychecks each month. Employees who are currently paid monthly (e.g., academic staff, faculty) will experience a significant change and need to consider whether to make adjustments to any current voluntary deductions. Please pay close attention to regular messages from UW System (UWS) Human Resources on this topic and visit both the UWM Single Payroll web site and UWS Single Payroll website to review the details and understand how it will impact you.
State Budget Advocacy
Along with Vice Chancellors Robin Van Harpen and Tom Luljak, I have held advocacy meetings with every member of the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee and other legislators to discuss UWS’ and UWM’s budget priorities, which include:
- Employee compensation
- Additional state support for research/access mission
- Support for the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin
- Expanded support for students’ mental and behavioral health
- Wisconsin Tuition Promise
- Modernization of administrative and financial processes
- Renovating Northwest Quad (Health Sciences building)
I encourage you to contact your legislators to explain why UWM deserves investment. You may find your elected officials’ contact information here. Please use your personal email and other resources for these efforts. UWS’ guidelines on political activity are available here. You can find a helpful “The Case for Investing in UWM” summary, as well as other resources, on UWM’s state budget information web site.
Thank you for your commitment and dedication to UWM, as well as your support of our current and prospective students. Your accomplishments and service are extraordinary and exhibit why UWM deserves investment to elevate our students, region, state and beyond.
Mark A. Mone, PhD