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New Report Raises Questions About Financial Viability of Wisconsin's Public Universities

Monday, April 15th, 2024 -- 9:00 AM

(Kelly Meyerhofer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Newly released reports raise questions about the financial viability of Wisconsin's public universities and signal additional cuts coming to some campuses in future years.

According to Kelly Meyerhofer with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the University of Wisconsin System paid outside firm Deloitte $2.8 million to assess the financial health of its individual campuses.

The reports released this week underscore the difficult financial forces facing most UW campuses and their unsustainable reliance on reserves to cover year after year of budget deficits. None of the reports raised the possibility of consolidation or closure.

UW System President Jay Rothman said he isn't entertaining the idea of closing any four-year campus. The struggle for chancellors is finding a path to remain financially sustainable while enrollment declines, concerns about college affordability grow and state funding in the most recent budget remained flat.

"I'm confident that all of our universities can get there," Rothman said. "The question is, what is the depth of those cuts going to have to be, because we have a responsibility on the expense side of the ledger to run as efficiently as we possibly can be. But in terms of having additional state support so that we can invest in things that are going to be important for our state going forward, I think that's what the balance is."

The nonpartisan Wisconsin Policy Forum found Wisconsin's four-year university system ranked 43rd in the country in per-pupil funding. Rothman said it would take an additional $440 million annually to move to the median level of funding nationally.

"Ultimately, it is up to the state to decide whether it wants and can afford a weakened (UW System)," Rothman said. "The adage is that you get what you pay for."

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