I hope you are adjusting to the seasonal changes. Winter weather started early this year and reminds us we are about to begin the eventful and invigorating period that accompanies the final weeks of the fall term. This is also the time we engage in detailed budget planning for the next fiscal year. I write with updates on financial news and our responsive actions aimed at driving future success.
The 2019-21 budget cycle was positive for UWM, with our state appropriations increasing, our largest-ever $192M biennial capital budget, and a recommended 2%/2% compensation plan. The pay plan is subject to approval by the Joint Committee on Employment Relations, which has been asked by the state Department of Administration to review and approve the plan. In September we celebrated the finale of UWM’s largest comprehensive campaignwith the announcement of our $251M fundraising total – all earmarked to support student success, research excellence and community engagement. And this month, we received a $10M donation for a new research vessel for our School of Freshwater Sciences.
On a less positive note, despite vigorous efforts to attract and retain students, our fall 2019 student enrollments declined about 4% which resulted in a tuition revenue loss of approximately $7M. With the undergraduate resident tuition freeze extended for two additional years, and the need for UWM to fund 30% of the 2019-21 pay plan, we will continue to carefully manage our finances.
Budgets for FY20 will remain at established levels, as careful oversight during the last few years has resulted in resources available to address needs this fiscal year. Financial planning for FY21 reveals that units will need to reduce budgets about 5% on average, though each unit will receive an individualized budget based on performance metrics and the other strategic criteria outlined in UWM’s budget model process.
Finalized budget allocations will be shared with units in January following individual budget meetings with leadership from every school, college, and division. In the meantime, we encourage all units to begin creating budget flexibilities now through vacant positions and other means.
Actions to Address Budget Developments
We can control our destiny through improved future budgets by enrolling more students and retaining our continuing students. Many efforts are in motion to do just that including identifying new financial aid sources, targeted communication methods, coordinated student advising, and designing a new comprehensive student support structure. Plans are also underway for a new student recruitment marketing campaign in Wisconsin to engage prospective students and their parents.
While both admissions and retention are important, you may be interested to know that retention of continuing students has a larger impact on our budget. Interacting positively and supportively with our students is something all faculty and staff can do to help – in fact, those who actively participate in our efforts to better address the student needs of the future will help drive a more sustainable future for your units. Your assistance can be as simple as asking students how their week is going or helping direct lost students to their destinations. The key here is creating a sense of belonging, something in which we can all participate. To provide us with details and ideas on how we can help, Provost Johannes Britz and Chief Enrollment Officer Katie Miota will share regular updates on specific actions we can take to enhance enrollment and retention.
As I have discussed on many occasions, there is significant change affecting higher education, like the trend of declining enrollments. In addition, we face changing demographics, students’ growing financial needs, the questioning of the value of a college degree, rapidly changing technology, and the desire for quicker and different training methods for current and future employees. These trends are not new. We have been working on our strategic directions to serve as our foundational guides for our current and near-term efforts in the following areas:
- Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
- Outstanding Learning Environment
- Research Excellence
- Community Engagement and Talent Pipeline
- Sustainable Future for the Campus
However, to position UWM for future success, we also need to examine long-term opportunities. To address this need, I have established the 2030+ Think Tank to examine how UWM can position itself for success in the year 2030 and beyond, as a supplement to our strategic direction efforts. The Think Tank, composed of members including governance representatives from our faculty, staff and student groups, will examine our challenges and opportunities, solicit input from students, faculty, staff, stakeholders, and others, and make recommendations by April 2020 to serve as a road map of proactive actions and innovation. The Think Tank’s charge and membership are online, with the group’s website serving as a repository for meeting summaries and other resources.
Planning for the 2021-23 state budget is underway. We will continue meetings and campus tours with elected officials, legislators, regents and other influencers. You can advocate for UWM by contacting your state legislator to share the value and contributions of UWM and to ask them to reinvest in us. Our State Budget Information web site is continually updated with resources, news and materials. You may find information about how to connect with your legislator on our Panther Advocates website. As you engage in the budget process, please remember to use personal resources including non-work time, noting the UW System rules regarding engaging in political activity.
Our road ahead will require collaboration, innovation and partnership. By being proactive and steering our own destiny through admissions, retention and planning, we can direct UWM to a positive future, both in the immediate and the long-term. I look forward to working with all of you as we advance UWM.
Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee