We have all heard the news in recent weeks. From angered tweets by UW students to major publications reporting on the issue, everyone has heard the recent but unfortunate buzz of the $300 million budget cut to the UW System.
Countless aspects of UWM and the UW System in general will be devastated by Scott Walker’s choice to cut funding to the higher education system in the state of Wisconsin. These cuts will not only affect us as an institution of education, but also the community, the state of Wisconsin, and our local economy.
To get more perspective of our new-found situation, I decided to reach out to the College Democrats at UW-Milwaukee. The College Democrats are a group on campus that raises awareness about state issues, gets involved during any sort of election, and are often seen in the Union spreading their democratic views and relaying the quality of education.
I sat down with Trevor Jung, a freshman at UWM and an active member of the College Democrats, to see his take on these budget cuts from a democratic viewpoint.
He pointed out that among the $300 million being cut to the entire system, $20-$40 million is going to be cut from UWM alone. However, it is difficult to visualize exactly how much our share of the cut equals out to.
“$40 million is approximately the budget for the Lubar School of Business. You could also look at the numbers like this: it is the budget for the School of Freshwater Sciences, our entire new program, combine that with the School of Public Health and half of the Peck School of the Arts. So you are cutting into either the second largest school that we have or you’re decimating three other schools,” said Jung.
It is doubtful that UWM would eliminate any of these programs, but these cuts do span out to be a ton of money. So where are we going to see these cuts, exactly? And more importantly, will us as students see direct consequences? The answer to that is yes.
Jung laid out six main aspects in which we will directly see these budget cuts.
- Possible building closures: Although this is not guaranteed and not necessarily likely to happen, but it is definitely possible. After all, millions upon millions of dollars has to be cut from somewhere.
- Layoffs: Not possible layoffs, layoffs. During a recent budget meeting, UW-Madison Chancellor, Rebecca Blank, stated that layoffs could be taking place as soon as April.
- Cuts in Research and Development: “Research and Development is essential to not only keeping Wisconsin competitive, but keeping the United States competitive in leading the world in technology and problem solving,” said Jung.
- Future tuition rises: “So you have a two year freeze in tuition, but if you look at what happened with the budget in 2012, when there was the budget repair bill, you saw tuition go up 5.5%. So it only makes sense that when you see a major cut from the state, that money has to be made up to continue operation. So who are the people that are going to be hurt from that; the students. It’s going to be us,” said Jung.
- A slowdown in admission of freshman: We are an open enrollment university and an aspect of that is to make the community a priority. If we cut down on the number of freshman being admitted, this is going to affect those in the community who want to earn a degree to provide a better life for their family, maybe give their kids a better shot than they had. Being a university that has many Milwaukee residents enrolling at an older age, rejecting these students could be detrimental to the progression of our community. On top of that, since the year 2000, UWM has built Sandburg’s East Tower, Cambridge, Riverview, and Kenilworth Resident Halls to accommodate the growing number of, primarily, freshman. A reduction in the number of residents in these buildings could, presumably, result in cuts to the staff at these locations, which brings us back to the layoffs, again.
- Brain Drain: If the accommodations aren’t right and education doesn’t seem like a priority in the state, what will happen? Oh yeah, people will leave and go elsewhere.
As of now, 80% of graduates and alumni from UWM stay in the state. They work, pay their taxes, and give back to their community. Its things like this that keep the state of Wisconsin going, but if we put education on the back-burner, will people even decide to go to UWM? Will they take their work, their tax money, and their generosity to the community and go elsewhere?
“Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio are all investing in higher education. Back in 2010, Scott Walker gets in office and really pushes forward with these budget cuts, and that was with the budget repair bill back then. The economy was slower back then, we were still in the midst of a recession, but we were just getting out of it. Cuts seemed to be across the state and across the country, it seemed to be something that a lot of governors did. But now, what you’re seeing is the economy doing better, bouncing back, you have more revenue coming into each state. Minnesota has a $1 billion surplus and the fastest growing job growth in the Midwest because they are investing in education. So you see our neighbors saying that this is the wrong direction, and what they’re going to do is pass Wisconsin up. We have something called the Wisconsin idea, and that means that we understand the importance of students and understand how that impacts the future of the state, not only in the next 10 years, but in the next 20, 30 years,” said Jung.
If neighboring states are on the fast track to passing up Wisconsin in terms of education, one could believe that without the priority of education, small business could very well decrease in Wisconsin, too. It’s kind of ironic considering Scott Walker’s coined term was “Wisconsin is open for business.”
So if all of this money is being cut from education, where is the majority of it going to be spent?
“It seems like he wants to invest in a new arena that’s going to be a $220 million expense and so it seems like that money is not even going to go into debt reduction, which is his entire premise for these direct cuts. These are unprecedented,” said Jung.
Even though profits for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks will bring in money through ticket sales, tourism, and possible businesses opening within the proximity, I don’t think it holds a handle to educating the citizens of Wisconsin.
We are all working hard at UWM; students, general workers, and especially professors, in which Scott Walker recently questioned if they were, in fact, working hard enough. It seems as though Walker might be forgetting one aspect that goes into being a professor: research. Not only do professors teach their classes, analyze coursework, and keep up with their students, but many also need to conduct research, which can take a tremendous amount of time. And we need this research to remain competitive in the industry.
I am willing to take a stab in the dark and say that Walker wouldn’t have made that argument face to face with an actual professor, or take the time to sit down with one, at that. If he did, maybe he would have a better viewpoint on professors at the UW System and on education in the state of Wisconsin.
“Governor Walker is one governor, and education has been the cornerstone of the Wisconsin idea. And so we need to have a conversation about the importance of education, the importance of economic development and the importance of keeping that tradition of higher education in the state of Wisconsin, and that, at the end of the day, is going to be the discussion that we are going to be having 10, 20 years from now. Governor Walker is just going to show up in the preface, but this is the real deal,” said Jung.
And this is the real deal. As a result from the $300 million in budget cuts to the UW System, Wisconsin is risking losing members of the community, industry competitiveness, and our reputation as a state that values and invests in higher education.
“We have an institution that creates skill and attracts skill, and if we want Wisconsin to be the best version of itself, we need to invest in education,” concluded Jung.