This new biennium brings with it many positive developments: state appropriations are increasing, we will be implementing a 2%/2% compensation plan, and UWM received $192M in the capital budget which includes construction of a new chemistry building. I’ll soon be sharing encouraging news on the Freshwater Collaborative of Wisconsin, an alliance among all UW campuses to address water challenges, that UWM is leading. On August 30, Governor Tony Evers toured UWM’s School of Freshwater Sciences to learn more about the project, which is under consideration by the state for $27.6M over three budget cycles. I have also participated in many meetings with legislators in recent months, with more lined up to advocate for resources and support. And on Sept. 12, we will be celebrating the finale of UWM’s largest comprehensive campaign, “Made in Milwaukee, Shaping the World”, with the announcement of our final campaign total.
On a less positive note, despite intensive efforts to attract and retain students, our fall 2019 student enrollments are projected to be down. Also, the undergraduate tuition freeze has been extended for two additional years through 2019-21, and UWM will need to fund 30% of the 2019-21 pay plan. These developments mean that we will need continued focus on budget management.
Due to careful oversight, fiscal diligence, lean budgeting and hard work over the past several years, we have a small cushion in 2019-20 against the headwinds we face. However, the combination of all the factors noted above will require us to reduce the size of our academic and administrative spending, in aggregate, in 2020-21. We are therefore encouraging all units to begin creating budget flexibilities through vacant positions and other means to prepare for the reduction in the next fiscal year. Deans and Division Heads will receive an update soon from Provost Johannes Britz and Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen, as planning for the FY 2020-21 budget begins early this fall under our new budget model.
As I have discussed for some time, higher education is facing significant change. Shifting demographics, declining enrollments, students’ unmet financial needs, the public’s mixed sentiment about the value of a college degree, rapidly changing technology, greater competitive forces, and employers’ desires for quicker and updated learning methods for the current and future workforce are just some of the very real issues that impact our future. We have been facing these developments for years, and will rely on our strengths in research, innovation, and collaboration as we navigate this new landscape together.
At the plenary I’ll discuss our path forward, which will involve advocacy, enrollment management, branding and other actions underway to continue our momentum and address the challenges facing higher education. I’ll also give updates on our strategic directions, which will serve as foundational guideposts as we plan our future. The plenary takes place on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 2:30 p.m. in the Helen Bader Concert Hall of the Helene Zelazo Center for the Performing Arts, and will be livestreamed for those viewing from other locations. I hope to see you there and look forward to working with you as we advance UWM.
Mark A. Mone
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee