Tamarine Cornelius
Wisconsin Budget

15 Years of Declining UW Support

In real dollars state support of UW System has plummeted by one-third since 2001.

By , Wisconsin Budget Project - Aug 30th, 2016 10:58 am
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Red Down Arrow

In 2016, the state provided $6,800 in General Purpose Revenue (GPR) support to the UW System per full-time equivalent student. That’s down more than a third from the $10,500 that the state provided to the UW System per student in 2001. Dollar amounts are from a Legislative Fiscal Bureau memo and are adjusted for inflation; student FTEs are from the University of Wisconsin website.

The chart shows that steep cuts to the University of Wisconsin System are nothing new – indeed, they date back fifteen years. The difference is that in in the early 2000s, lawmakers allowed tuition to rise substantially at the same time as they cut GPR support. That increase in tuition cushioned the effects of the reductions in state support but also raised the price of a university education, pushing the cost of higher education out of reach for some struggling families.

In recent years, lawmakers have continued to reduce state support for the University of Wisconsin System, but have limited tuition increases or have frozen tuition. Limiting or preventing tuition increases helps keep college degrees affordable. But when combined with budget cuts, a tuition freeze reduces the resources the UW System needs to keep students in school, make sure they can graduate on time, and match them to careers in high-demand fields. Put another way, the combination of budget cuts and a tuition freeze make it more difficult for students to get the high-quality University of Wisconsin education they deserve.

State Support for UW System has Dropped by a Third

State Support for UW System has Dropped by a Third

The chart doesn’t include other sources of revenue for the UW System, like federal grants and private gifts. Those sources of money are often required to be spent on specific purposes and the UW System cannot use those resources to make up for the loss in state support or tuition revenue.

It’s not clear if Governor Walker plans to pursue additional large cuts for the University of Wisconsin System in the upcoming budget period that starts in July 2017. He has said that he will seek another tuition freeze and that the UW System should not expect additional money to offset the freeze. Governor Walker has also said he may seek additional performance-based funding for the UW system, but little is known about what that means.

Continuing to cut state support for the UW system will make it harder for students to get the degrees they need to be competitive in an advanced economy. UW System President Ray Cross summed up the situation in a recent column:

“[C]ontinued budget cuts and frozen tuition cannot be sustained…

More than 36,000 students graduate from the UW System each year – and more than 80 percent will stay in Wisconsin. These graduates work, raise families, and become productive taxpaying citizens. This infusion of highly educated graduates into Wisconsin’s workforce is essential to our economy.

Wisconsin is at a crossroads. We can choose either to invest in our future, in the future of our children, and in the future of our state, or we can give the university system a lower priority and put our future at risk. The choice is ours.”

15 thoughts on “Wisconsin Budget: 15 Years of Declining UW Support”

  1. UW must be reorganized. NY Times, Economist and many others have highlighted the great growth in spending, growth of ancillary staff, administrations, by the U systems across the world. They are feeding off of the student loans.


  2. Jason says:

    All good news. Break the academic bubble. No more safe spaces. Old white folks do not deserve a job for life simply because they have tenure.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yeah who even needs instructors and classrooms and all that? Just follow Ron Johnson’s advice and show students DVDs. That will save a ton of money. All that classroom learnin’ stuff is for elites.

  4. Jason says:

    Vince, there is a lot of middle class and god forbid poor teenagers taking classes online. God forbid they try to save a few dollars instead of carryinga $75,000 professor on their back for the next 25 years. We need more disruptors in education.

  5. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    Why has tuition gone up 65 times what I paid in 1962 at UW??? The NY Times, economist and many others tell us. Too much overhead and spending, no reorganization. businesses reorganize every three years, colleges every 300 or so.

  6. Vincent Hanna says:

    No one is suggesting people shouldn’t try to save money. Yes those darn professors getting paid five figures after spending 8 years getting advanced degrees!!! Time to stick it to them!!! Down with those latte-sipping, Volvo-driving, Sanders-supporting elitist educators!!!

  7. Kate in Milwaukee says:

    Jason, I’m just curious. Where did you go to college and what did you study?

  8. Jason says:

    Vince good to see you sticking up for the old rules. The establishment. Professor teaches the holocaust didn’t happen well he has tenure. You can not fire their ass. Professors viewing pornography on state computers it is educational. The professors is learning.

  9. Kate in Milwaukee says:

    Jason, really. I’m serious. It was not a rhetorical question. Where did you go to college and what did you study?

  10. Vincent Hanna says:

    I will stick up for hard-working and dedicated professors from baseless, ignorant right-wing attacks. So if I can point to two bad cops nationwide does that mean the entire profession is tainted and substandard?

  11. Jason says:

    The left feasts on cops daily. Do you think that young African American cop tied up in Sherman Park will be able to live in Milwaukee again?

  12. wisconsin conservative Digest says:

    What profs are we attacking???? None. The NY times, Atlantic, Economist, numerous studies show that the problem lies with poor administration, management, duplication of degrees, worthless degrees and failure to modernize. Read Deming.

  13. Vincent Hanna says:

    Wow talk about a pivot Jason. I really don’t know how to have a productive conversation with someone who makes statements like “the left feasts on cops daily.” I will try (again since you didn’t answer). Are you saying it’s accurate to suggest that the actions of a few professors means they are all tainted and substandard but the actions of a few cops says nothing about the profession? Or is there no such thing as a bad cop?

  14. wisconsin conservative digest says:

    As for police!~ We love the people in Inner city, most of them. Have worked there for decades. We are for busting up MPS and giving the control to schools back to the people and also the police.
    Turn over the control of police, to a police and fire commission, from the area so the good people can control what the police do, not a few loudmouths or thugs.

  15. Vincent Hanna says:

    WCD, you accused “the left” of wanting police officers dead. My sister’s husband, the father of my niece and nephew, is MPD, District 5. You are an imbecile of the highest order and a repulsive excuse for a human being. I detest you with the fire of a thousand suns.

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