Resources for Corrections Would Outstrip State Support for University System, under Governor’s Proposal
Wisconsin would spend significantly more on prisons and corrections than on helping students pursue their educations at the University of Wisconsin System, if Governor Walker’s budget is passed without changes.
Governor Walker has called on lawmakers to dramatically reduce the amount of support the state provides for the University System. About 180,000 students attend the University of Wisconsin System, at 13 four-year universities and an equal number of two-year institutions. Each year, the UW system awards about 36,000 degrees. Those degrees help graduating students become part of the well-educated workforce Wisconsin needs to compete in the global economy.
Governor Walker’s proposed budget cuts state support for the University of Wisconsin System by 13%, or $300 million over two years. He has said that new flexibility he has proposed will allow the UW System to find cost savings to offset the cut. UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank had a different take on the cut, saying that she could hypothetically eliminate all funding to the schools of business, law, nursing, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy, and still not come up with enough to cover the cuts to the state’s main campus.
The proposed cuts to the UW System would also mean that Wisconsin would be spending far more on the state’s prison system than it does helping students get university degrees. The Governor’s budget proposes spending 17% less from the state’s general fund on the University System than on the state’s corrections system. That’s quite a turnaround from the 2000-01 period, when the state spent nearly a third more on the UW system than it did on corrections. Since the turn of the century, corrections spending has increased dramatically and the state has set aside far fewer resources for UW students.
To help the state’s economy grow, we need more students with university degrees, not fewer. The cuts Governor Walker has proposed would harm students, by making it harder for them to complete their educations; employers, by making it more difficult for potential employees to develop necessary skills; and the state, by scaling back the economic boost that the University System gives Wisconsin. By spending less on the University System than corrections, Wisconsin would squander human potential and opportunity that pays dividends down the road.