Op Ed

UW System Drives Wisconsin’s Economy

And returns $23 dollars for every $1 invested. Strong state support pays off.

By - Jul 15th, 2019 02:59 pm
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North facade of the proposed UWM Chemistry Building. Rendering by Community Design Solutions.

North facade of the proposed UWM Chemistry Building. Rendering by Community Design Solutions.

As the newly elected president of the Board of Regents, here’s my pledge: I will continue to be a tenacious advocate for the University of Wisconsin System.

The UW System is Wisconsin’s economic driver, and the best investment our taxpayers can make. We are returning 23 dollars for every dollar invested in us. We are graduating a record number of students—more than 36,000 for each of the last six years—the majority of whom build careers, raise families, and settle here. We are producing groundbreaking research that leads to the creation of companies and family-sustaining jobs.

I want to harness the power of the System – of our graduates, faculty, and staff – to grow the Wisconsin economy and to make our state the envy of the Midwest.

I joined the Board of Regents in 2013, and since then we’ve taken numerous steps to restore accountability in the System and add unprecedented transparency to the public. We have invested in high-growth science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) programs, and established key performance measures. And we have added substantial emphasis on student success. If you have any questions about how we’re doing, just visit our Accountability Dashboard at wisconsin.edu/accountability/.

As board president, I will be a pragmatic leader focused on building on our momentum in these areas.  Specifically, I want to emphasize the overlapping goals of student success and driving the Wisconsin economy.

We know “high-impact” practices like undergraduate research, internships, and co-ops help students progress toward a degree and develop better mastery of their field of study. We also know those experiences provide the kind of workforce readiness employers are craving. I want to grow these areas, especially internships, where UW System students are already outpacing students nationally.

It’s also time we take a closer look at behavioral health on our campuses. With two teenagers of my own, I can appreciate the new and increased stress and pressure students face. The Board of Regents is examining and analyzing the increasing level of stress-related anxiety on our campuses, and one of my initial priorities is to make sure all of our campuses are employing best practices, both operationally and financially, to help campus communities succeed in combating this unfortunate epidemic.

Turning from an emotional issue to an economic issue, the Republican-led legislature and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers – a former Regent and lifelong educator — just completed work on the state’s biennial budget process. While the Board of Regents didn’t receive everything we sought, we are very pleased the legislature and the Governor recognize how important it is to repair, renovate, and replace our aging infrastructure – especially in key STEM fields. An over one-billion dollar infusion of capital project investments is the accelerant our campuses and Wisconsin’s economy needs. And it comes exactly at the right time.

The collective effort to boost funding for the UW System in the biennial budget is a sign that everyone recognizes the UW System is invaluable in meeting Wisconsin’s needs. Maintaining that strong support is critical to ensuring the continued high quality of a UW education. I, along with my Regent colleagues, will do all we can to make that case!

Andrew S. Petersen, President, Board of Regents, University of Wisconsin System

Categories: Education, Op-Ed

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