September 22, 2015

This week’s meeting again centered on a budget question: how and why UWM has a looming $30 million structural deficit. Kyle Swanson (Mathematical Sciences) presented an analysis of budget trends since 2006, and we discussed how this data can guide us in dealing with UWM’s portion of the $250 million budget cut to the UW system. That system-wide cut has the potential to reduce the capacity of the university system to educate some 10% of the current ~180,000 students, and will dramatically affect UWM.

Swanson’s presentation emphasized that tuition is our major revenue source, and illustrated how expenditures on student support and administration has grown in recent years as our enrollments grew. Yet, now that our enrollments have declined, spending in these student support and administrative units have continued to grow. For example, limited term employees (administration) have increased by 23% since 2011. During the same time, faculty numbers have decreased 27 FTE. We also learned that while faculty and academic salaries have remained flat, the salary pool for administrators has increased 2-3% per year.

In response to the budget cuts and the shrinking support for the university, UWM will have to undergo drastic cuts. The current ballpark figure equates to 200-300 layoffs. We raised questions about how many of these will be in administration vs. faculty or academic staff directly involved in instruction or research.

We continued the discussion on how to address these issues. We do not seem to have effective budget policy making tools which can calibrate our complex delivery of instruction, research and support services with anticipated revenue streams. Currently, there is no thermostat to adjust academic and administrative planning in response to enrollment or State support cuts. Second, the structure of the university needs to address the disincentives to not cooperate across units. Currently, School and College budgets are driven by student credit hours, so teaching more classes within a unit moves budget between units to relieve local pressures, but does not add additional revenue to help the university as a whole.

We have questions about whether the committees recently appointed by the chancellor to address budgets can address these problems.

In the past three weeks we have had presentations on the New Budget Model, additional information on reserves, enrollment and budget projections from Robin van Harpen and Jerry Tarrer, and Kyle. We hope in the weeks ahead to produce our own analysis and action steps for the faculty going forward.

In other items, we reviewed the tenure position paper and made revisions based on feedback from the Faculty Senate. John Reisel will prepare a revised version for a future meeting.