New state budget: Faculty raises, tuition break?Area News
-- Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal might be good news for both staff and students at University of Wisconsin campuses.
By: Judy Wiff , Pierce County Herald
RIVER FALLS -- Gov. Scott Walker’s biennial budget proposal might be good news for both staff and students at University of Wisconsin campuses.
The proposal calls for a $181.4 million increase in state aid for the University of Wisconsin System over the next two years.
That could mean a less-than-usual increase in tuition for students and possible pay increases for faculty, say university sources.
Last week, Freda Harris, University of Wisconsin associate vice president for planning and budget, told the Board of Regents that the extra funding could potentially allow for the lowest tuition increase in years.
“For the past few years, the tuition increase has been 5.5 percent,” said Blake Fry, special assistant to UW-River Falls Chancellor Dean Van Galen. “If the governor’s budget proposal for the UW System is supported by the Legislature, we can expect a lower recommended increase.”
Tuition now covers 70 percent and state funding covers 30 percent of the cost of educating students in Wisconsin’s public universities -- a direct reversal of the split decades ago.
The UW System would receive $89.4 million of the proposed $181.4 million in the form of a flexible block grant. That money could be used for pay raises.
There is no precedent to guide the distribution of those funds, said UWRF Assistant Chancellor Elizabeth Frueh in a letter to faculty and staff.
The block grant could be used for pay increases “needed to recruit and retain talented faculty and staff,” said Frueh, adding that the grant would be in addition to any pay plan announced for all state workers.
“It is uncertain if the governor plans to propose a pay increase for all state employees,” Frueh said. “Faculty and staff compensation remains our number one priority and we are frequently communicating this critical need to the UW System Regents and the Wisconsin State Legislature.”
The governor’s proposal includes $20 million for specific UW System initiatives to boost economic and workforce development.
In an effort to secure some of that funding for UWRF, Chancellor Van Galen has proposed a Center for Innovation and Business Development, said Frueh.
That proposal -- developed in collaboration with UWRF faculty and administrators, the city of River Falls, the St. Croix County Economic Development Corporation and the Western Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission -- lays out a plan for a small-business incubator.
Frueh warned that the governor's budget, released in February, will probably be modified by the Joint Committee on Finance and the Legislature before being finalized. Once the budget is signed, the UW System Board of Regents finishes its own budget.