We are a year into the biennial budget enacted by Governor Walker for 2015-2017, which saw 250 million dollars cut from the UW system. The two largest sources of funding for UW–Stout come from state funding and tuition.
Further complicating budget matters, Walker enacted a tuition freeze in 2012. With one major source of Stout funding remaining flat and the other being cut, this creates a difficult situation for our administration when it comes to budgeting for UW–Stout. One way the university has responded to the budget cuts is by increasing various fees Stout students pay along with tuition.
As reported by WisCONTEXT—a news service of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television—every UW campus except UW–Platteville has raised segregated fees, dorm room rates and meal plan rates as part of its response to these cuts.
Despite increased student fees, the impact of these cuts and the tuition freeze at UW–Stout has mostly been focused on faculty and administration. In April of this year, the chancellor’s office released a statement outlining the impacts of the budget cuts and how they affect our campus. The statement pointed out that UW–Stout has exhausted nearly all of the funds it has available to match job offers professors receive from other institutions. The average salary of its faculty and academic staff is $25,000 less than their peers at other polytechnic schools.
Peter Johnston, a returning student looking to add a degree in Business and Marketing Education to the degree in Business Administration he received in 2014, was asked if he had noticed any impact from the budget cuts.
“When I was here for my previous degree, I had a coach who seemed to be able to teach more classes,” said Johnston. “I noticed that he seems to be doing more administrative duties now within the athletics building.”
Allison Rigotti, a freshman here at Stout, added, “I work at the Learning Technology Services center for students, and I noticed we are given administration tasks such as taking the garbage in the center out to the main receptacle instead of the janitorial staff.”
These students reflect how the impacts of the budget cuts have been greatly softened by the administration’s focus on making cuts within its functions. The other thing the students made clear was that these types of changes to administration are not always negative. Johnston stated he remembered his teacher wanting to get more involved with administration, and Rigotti spoke about how she was happy to help out with simple tasks like taking out the trash.
With Governor Walker signaling that the tuition freezes will be extended for at least the next year of the upcoming budget, students may start to see academic impacts. In an interview on Wisconsin Public Television this August, Chancellor Bob Meyer stated the following when responding to a question about if he thought Stout could handle another tuition freeze:
“We will probably be doing more with less in terms of trying to offer fewer [course] sections and increasing class sizes,” said Meyer. “That’s not something that’s desirable.”
In addition to the shrinking availability of classes and the increase in class sizes, the school’s inability to compete for the quality of staff Stout has always aimed to provide for its students may begin to impact students in a more visible way.