UW-Milwaukee Chancellor Mark Mone asked for help, patience and understanding at the 2015 Fall Plenary Address regarding the financial future of campus.
Per the recent $250 million UW system budget cuts, with $30 million coming from UW-Milwaukee, Chancellor Mone reiterated that the Budget Planning Task Force is continuing to work on cost containment.
“We are hiring only necessary positions. We are putting a hold on out of state travel with exceptions for grant and gift-funded travel for research and academic purposes,” said Mone.
The task force has previously allocated $15.7 million in cuts for the 2016 fiscal year and is currently working to cut an additional $14.5 million for 2017. The cuts are equal to the budget of the colleges of nursing, information studies and engineering combined.
“While we are really dealing with a budget cut, there are larger, deeper, ongoing issues that also need to be addressed. Namely, the structural deficit,” said Mone.
Although college application and admissions are up, enrollment is down. Nationally, college enrollment fell 2%, primarily in students ages 18-24. The older adult enrollment rate is lowering as well, for it coincides with the lowering unemployment rate. In Wisconsin, approximately 1,200 fewer students graduated from high schools.
“We peaked in enrollment in 2010 with about 30,400 students. We declined through 2014, stabilized last year, and we may decline a bit this year. That alone accounts for $20 million in base budget,” said Mone.
From 2003 to 2012 an average of a 6.8% tuition increase helped boost the UW-Milwaukee reserve. Chancellor Mone called four-year tuition freeze part of “the perfect storm of events” leading to the structural deficit.
“It didn’t happen overnight. This is something that was a function of set decisions and events that have occurred. UWM has been underfunded…our reserves have declined.
“We were hoping we would have a reprieve from the tuition freeze. There were some very good indicators of positive progress…We had a $90 million reserve, and today we have $61 million. At a structural deficit rate of $30 million, we have about two years before the lines cross,” said Mone.
The Chancellor’s Enrollment Management Action Team (CEMAT), comprised of working groups based on scholarship, advising and comprehensive retention, had 246 meetings since last spring to help improve enrollment rates and other issues surrounding the structural deficit.
“I don’t share these (number of meetings) because the volume is important, I share these to show the communication efforts, the transparency, and the inclusion with which we’ve tried to bring people together to understand some of the most significant issues we have faced,” said Mone.
Looking forward, Chancellor Mone states the central purpose is around education, research and engagement, and stresses the importance of shared governance and preserving tenure.
By October, CEMAT’s goal is to have a plan detailing the progression of budget cuts. In February Chancellor Mone will select some recommendations to evaluate and share with the campus community.
He closed the plenary asking for a favor. “I ask for your help, for your patience, and your understanding that none of us asked for or created this fiscal and political scenario. But we have to manage it, and we will. I need and I value your help. And with 5,300 people that work here and over 27,000 students, this is a tall order.”