Although reduced, the state budget cuts are taking a toll on campus services and employment.
Last spring, Governor Scott Walker proposed a $300 million budget cut to the UW System, sparking panic about the loss of services and faculty across campus. The proposal included removing nearly $1.5 million in segregated fee funded programs at UWSP, for a total reduction of nearly $9 million.
In July, the state legislature approved a cut of $250 million to the UW system, $50 million less than was originally proposed. Funding was also taken from the Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology, Environmental Education‐Forestry and Environmental Education‐Environmental Assessments, totaling $770,500 in reductions, while restoring funding for the Northern Aquaculture Demonstration Facility, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, Paper Machine Operations and Environmental Program Grants, totaling $654,500.
After much debate, the Budget Review Advisory Committee and Chancellor Bernie Patterson assessed the $5.8 million budget reduction the university currently faces. An additional $860,000 was freed up by the Voluntary Incentive Separation Program, of which 32 faculty members and staff participated, giving UWSP about $2.5 million to reinvest in programs across the campus.
Because of the cut reduction, the committee and Patterson decided to restore $1.3 million to faculty salaries, which is under 20 positions, $500,000 to student employment, $300,000 to marketing and student recruitment, $270,000 to Career Services and $120,000 to library resources.
“I am happy that the majority of money is going back to support our students,” said Katie Cronmiller, Student Government Association president and BRAC committee member. “Student jobs on campus make it easier for students to do well in college. This is where we live and where we go to school. Plus, it makes college affordable.”
Megan Mueller, a senior at UWSP, said one of her courses disappeared after she had registered for the fall semester. She hopes it will not affect her ability to graduate in December 2016.
“The instructor left the university, leaving me to scramble and find a replacement course, ” Mueller said, who is unsure if the professor left due to the cuts.
The concern about having enough money for instructors, let alone enough instructors to teach required classes, is not new and has been cited as a problem for UWSP students. Since the budget cut, 93 faculty members, academic staff and university staff have left UWSP.
No athletic programs will be cut due to budget reductions, as most athletic programs are funded by the revenue they generate and student segregated fees, not the general budget, Patterson said.
“If we cut a sport, that money goes back to SGA to be reallocated and cannot be used to cover a state budget reduction,” Patterson said.
Patterson said any savings earned by eliminating a sport would cost the university more in reduced enrollment than would have been returned.
The logic used in keeping each athletic program is frequently discussed among administrators. Each student enrolled pays tuition, and tuition pays for instruction. Therefore, any reduction in enrollment equals a reduction in funds available to pay instructors.