Blank’s Slate

A Blog by UW-Madison Chancellor Becky Blank


Travels to Oshkosh and Green Bay

Here’s something that I learned last week: Green Bay’s Schreiber Foods sends 2.1 billion pounds of cheese and yogurt to more than 55 countries around the world. Is there anything more Wisconsin than that?

The company is also staffed with more than 55 proud UW alums. I learned all of this and more last week during an outreach trip to Green Bay and Oshkosh.

Chancellor Blank meets with UW alumni who work at Schreiber Foods. More than 55 alums work for the international dairy company based in Green Bay.

Chancellor Blank meets with UW alumni who work at Schreiber Foods. More than 55 alums work for the international dairy company based in Green Bay.

I stopped by UW-Oshkosh and UW-Green Bay and held joint meetings with the chancellors at each of those UW System institutions to talk directly with alumni and business leaders about how critical it is for them to get involved during the upcoming state budget process. We heard a lot of positive feedback on our Project 72 efforts, and I was encouraged to see how many people are willing to help us spread our message that it is time to reinvest in UW.

We have alums all over the state and these meetings are a good way to bring them together to discuss what the state budget means for every campus. This is not Madison versus Oshkosh or Madison versus Green Bay. This is Madison, Oshkosh, and Green Bay together.

Every campus is feeling the cuts in different ways, but dealing with budget cuts for five of the last six state budgets is showing up across the UW System in quality for our students. People attending these events are often surprised to learn that when a steam pipe breaks under our university, I have to take educational funds to fix it because the state gave us no maintenance money in the last budget. That has never happened before, and chancellors across the system are facing similar problems.

But the highlight of the trip was the visit to Schreiber Foods. One of my favorite activities is a visit to a local business. I love hearing from Wisconsin business leaders about how their business is changing and growing. It’s also good to see how many of our alumni are in key positions in businesses across the state. We discussed the many current partnerships between UW-Madison and Schreiber Foods and ways we can do more together in the future.

Many of the executives noted how they are looking forward to the forthcoming renovation and expansion of the outdated Babcock Hall Dairy Plant and Center for Dairy Research. They stressed how important it was for the “Dairy State” to lead the way on dairy technology development.

Leadership at Schreiber was very important in building the private funding and the political impetus to fund and move forward with this new building project. Once completed, this state-of-the-art facility will improve curriculum so students are better prepared to start work on day one, and allow Wisconsin dairy companies to test new products to sell.

It’s always good to travel in Wisconsin. I thank UW-Oshkosh Chancellor Andrew Leavitt and UW-Green Bay Chancellor Gary Miller for hosting me for these visits and I look forward to working with them as the state budget process continues next year.

Understanding the Tuition Proposals

Update: On Thursday, Dec. 8, 2016, the UW System Board of Regents approved tuition increases for UW-Madison as well as UW-Eau Claire, UW-Green Bay, UW-La Crosse, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Stout, and the UW Colleges.

In the spring of 2015, I asked the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents to consider a four-year plan for tuition increases for nonresident undergraduates and a selected group of professional school students. Not wanting to tie the hands of future boards, the regents approved the two years of tuition increases, and urged me to come back in two years to discuss approval for the rest of the plan.

The request we are sending to the board for approval at its December 2016 meeting completes the four-year plan. I have been public about my intentions to request these additional two years of tuition increases, including my speech to the Faculty Senate earlier this semester, to help students and families plan ahead.

We don’t make a decision to increase tuition lightly. We have a responsibility to maintain access to UW-Madison for Wisconsin students and to maintain lower tuition for our in-state students. We are also the flagship university in the UW System and our educational quality is highly rated in national and international rankings; we have a responsibility to maintain this quality. It is because of our commitment to these goals that we want to set nonresident and professional school tuition at a market rate. This will allow us to maintain quality in our educational programs, and cross-subsidize long-term lower tuition for in-state students.

The increase we are requesting for nonresident undergraduate tuition, $2,000 per year for the next two years, would bring that tuition to $35,523 in two years. This is almost $10,000 less than the current University of Michigan nonresident tuition and fees and about $2,300 less than Michigan State. The educational and research experience we provide rivals what you will find at any other Big Ten school, and it is important that the price of attending UW-Madison reflect that quality.

2016-17 Academic Year Tuition and Required Fees at Big Ten Universities

Resident Non-Resident
Institution Amount Rank Amount Rank
Northwestern University $50,855 1 $50,855 1
Pennsylvania State University $17,900 2 $32,382 6
University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign $15,698 3 $31,320 8
University of Michigan $14,402 4 $45,410 2
Rutgers University $14,372 5 $30,023 9
University of Minnesota – Twin Cities $14,142 6 $23,806 13
Michigan State University $14,063 7 $37,890 3
University of Wisconsin – Madison $10,488 8 $32,738 5
Indiana University $10,388 9 $34,246 4
University of Maryland $10,181 10 $32,045 7
The Ohio State University $10,037 11 $28,229 12
Purdue University $10,002 12 $28,804 11
University of Iowa $8,575 13 $28,813 10
University of Nebraska $8,537 14 $23,057 14
Public Big 10 Universities (excludes Northwestern)
Institution Resident Amount Non-resident Amount
Average Excluding UW-Madison $12,358 $31,335
Midpoint Excluding UW-Madison $12,226 $30,672
UW-Madison Distance from Midpoint -$1,738 $2,067

It is important to note that we are in the fourth year of a tuition freeze on in-state undergraduates. Our tuition for resident undergraduates, $10,488, ranks us seventh lowest among the public Big Ten universities, and our tuition is less than $500 above the third-lowest school, Purdue University.

While tuition for in-state undergrads has been frozen, and may remain frozen for the next two years, our costs of operation continue to rise. At the same time, the amount of support we receive from the state, a vital resource for our day-to-day operations, has been falling. Cuts to state support left us with an $86 million budget deficit in the current biennium, a gap we filled primarily through cuts to programs and services across campus, along with some shifts in student mix and increased nonresident and professional school tuition.

The increase in nonresident tuition over the last two years has not had an adverse impact on our ability to attract top out-of-state students. In fact, interest in UW-Madison by nonresident applicants has increased in recent years, and has nearly doubled in the last decade — in 2006, we received 11,284 applications from out of state; in 2016 we received 21,664. We expect these out-of-state applications to rise even more this year as we move onto the Common Application.

Using current nonresident enrollments, we estimate that this proposal would provide $9.6 million in additional funding each year. The new revenue is very important as a way to address substantial needs across campus, and all of the new dollars will be put back into support that aids the student experience. This includes expanding programs with high student demand (particularly in STEM areas), expanding financial aid, and investing in new technologies to support the delivery of education.

We’re also seeking approval to raise tuition in six professional schools: Business, Law, Medicine and Public Health, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Veterinary Medicine. The proposed increases break down as follows:

Proposed Graduate Tuition Increases

Current Proposed for 2017-18 Proposed for 2018-19
Tuition Increase Tuition Increase Tuition
School of Business — Full-time Masters Programs
Resident $15,894 $1,558 $17,452 $1,710 $19,162
Nonresident $32,164 $3,152 $35,316 $3,461 $38,777
School of Business — Global Real Estate Masters
All students $32,164 $5,146 $37,310 $5,970 $43,280
School of Pharmacy — Doctor of Pharmacy
Resident $18,008 $1,765 $19,773 $1,938 $21,711
Nonresident $32,809 $3,215 $36,024 $3,530 $39,554
Medical School — Doctor of Medicine
Resident $28,650 $2,779 $31,429 $3,049 $34,478
Nonresident $38,546 $3,739 $42,285 $4,102 $46,387
School of Veterinary Medicine — Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Resident $21,626 $4,000 $25,626 $4,000 $29,626
Nonresident $34,769 $6,500 $41,269 $6,500 $47,769
School of Nursing — Doctor of Nursing Practice
Resident $13,048 $1,279 $14,327 $1,404 $15,731
Nonresident $27,254 $2,671 $29,925 $2,933 $32,858
Law School
Resident $20,235 $1,000 $21,235 $1,000 $22,235
Nonresident $38,932 $1,000 $39,932 $1,000 $40,932

Our professional schools have built excellent national reputations, but they remain priced well below the market rate. With the increases outlined above, the cost of attending a professional school at UW-Madison will still be below the median tuition levels among peer schools. In some cases, tuition is low enough that top students hesitate to apply to UW schools because they think the low tuition must signal low quality.

Tuition increases are difficult, and I know that some families’ finances are already stretched. We deeply appreciate the contributions of our nonresident and professional school students and value their presence in our community. A share of the additional tuition will be used to increase financial aid in order to maintain access and diversity among our out-of-state and professional school students.

But our tuition levels also need to reflect the high quality of our institution, and must allow us to maintain our educational quality. Our goal is to do that while providing some measure of relief to Wisconsin families who have helped to build that quality through their years of investment in Wisconsin’s higher education system.

For those of you who want to read the full proposal to the Board of Regents, which provides much more information on relative tuition levels and these proposed increases, please click here.

UW–Madison: A global university

The University of Wisconsin–Madison is joining institutions across the country in celebrating International Education Week. The week is a time to highlight and enjoy the benefits of international education and engagement.

In addition to being a world‐class public research university, UW-Madison has long been a leader in international higher education. For decades we have contributed to globally important research and trained world experts in important areas such as land tenure, infectious disease, poverty, economic development, international politics and history, world religions and cultures, and languages. Being an active participant in the global community by sharing knowledge and building partnerships drives the Wisconsin Idea and affords new opportunities for students, faculty and staff.

We recognize that to prepare our students to thrive in an increasingly global society, they need the skills and knowledge to navigate international and cultural boundaries. Developing these skills and a global perspective does not happen overnight — rather, it is a lifetime effort. Appreciating perspectives other than our own helps us understand one another better and interact more effectively with people from throughout the world. All disciplines have international and cross-disciplinary implications that include opportunities for reciprocal learning and exchanges between campus and international communities.

Our efforts to internationalize the UW–Madison experience have yielded success, as indicated by several metrics:

  • We have been recognized in the 2016 Open Doors Report as a top 25 university for campuses with the most students studying abroad and for the most international students on campus. The report is published by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
  • The eight area studies centers that make up our Institute for Regional and International Studies (IRIS) are among the best in the country. Six are federally funded National Resource Centers. Faculty associated with the studies centers regularly share their expertise globally.
  • Many of UW–Madison’s faculty members are from countries outside the United States, resulting in diverse perspectives and expertise that benefit students. Based on our October 2015 headcount, about 16 percent of our 2,150 tenured and tenure-track faculty are foreign-born. This includes those with permanent residency status and those with a temporary visa.
  • Domestic students find opportunities to pursue their academic passions beyond campus as 25 percent of our graduates have had a study abroad experience.
  • We have produced 3,184 Peace Corps volunteers — the second highest number of any institution in the United States.
  • UW–Madison is a destination for students worldwide. Some 6,000 international students from 109 countries are currently studying at our university. The presence of international students also impacts the surrounding community through an infusion of $154 million, which supports 2,440 jobs.
  • Our robust global network of more than 14,000 alumni outside the United States provides support for students abroad, and continues to engage with the university well after graduation. Our alumni serve as ambassadors, diplomats and national leaders around the globe.

This is a small sampling of the ways in which UW–Madison is seeing success in its efforts to increase international education and cultural experiences. We are a global university thanks to the efforts of students, faculty and staff.

I encourage you to attend events planned this week. I hope you might find opportunities to grow, expand your perspective, and become a part of our global community.

A message to our community

I stayed up late last night to watch the outcome of the presidential election, as I suspect many of you did. As in every election, there were winners and losers. But regardless of your political affiliation, I think all Americans agree that we would like to see America thrive in the future as a vibrant democracy and a world leader.

Here in our campus community, we will continue to strive to be a lively intellectual environment that is also a welcoming and inclusive place for our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends. It is only in an environment that is safe and free from harassment that our primary mission of teaching, learning, research and service can take place.

We aim to express these values in practice every day. Many of our campus governance groups also recently affirmed a Campus Statement on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I want to share it here:

“Diversity is a source of strength, creativity, and innovation for UW-Madison. We value the contributions of each person and respect the profound ways their identity, culture, background, experience, status, abilities, and opinion enrich the university community. We commit ourselves to the pursuit of excellence in teaching, research, outreach, and diversity as inextricably linked goals.

“The University of Wisconsin-Madison fulfills its public mission by creating a welcoming and inclusive community for people from every background—people who as students, faculty, and staff serve Wisconsin and the world.”

These are ideals that we aspire to, but sometimes fail to meet. While we are taking a variety of steps to address campus climate concerns, we are a long way from becoming the community we want to be.

But there is reason for hope. Nothing happens until people get involved, and we’re seeing that:

  • Student leaders are active, working for change and raising awareness.
  • Faculty are more engaged than ever in campus climate issues
  • Our staff has implemented innovative programs to support our community.

We have done much in recent years, via our Diversity Framework, and newer efforts chronicled on our campus climate site.

We must continue our efforts to build a stronger, more inclusive and interconnected community here at UW that can support one another and contribute to a path forward for the nation.

Close elections like we’ve just experienced can result in a range of reactions. In the coming days, I ask that people engage respectfully in debate over current events. We’re providing space for community discussions with staff on hand to listen and provide support:

  • Thursday 9 a.m. to noon, Our Wisconsin Room B/C, Red Gym
  • Thursday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Landmark Room, Union South
  • Friday 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., Northwoods Room, Union South

Resources are also available through University Health Services, the Multicultural Student Center, and the LGBT Campus Center.

The more inclusive, interconnected and engaged we are as a community, the stronger and more resilient we become. These efforts are a work in process. Each of us is always in the process of becoming more aware and more understanding of other perspectives. This work is never finished. But more than ever, it is vital to our campus, nation and world.

2016-17 Budget in Brief is now available

As you know, we are headed into another budget year, which will establish the state budget for higher education for 2017-19. The state budget for the UW System has been cut in five of the last six cycles. (The budget allocates dollars to the UW System as a whole; the System then allocates dollars to individual campuses.) Over the past 12 years, state dollars to the UW System have fallen by $164 million (inflation adjusted), and this has translated to a loss of $62 million (inflation adjusted) in state dollars to UW-Madison.

As part of the budget debate, it is imperative that we make the case for why higher education in Wisconsin is an excellent investment. One of the tools we have to help people understand our budget is the University of Wisconsin–Madison Budget in Brief, and the 2016-17 version is now available.

This is the third year of this publication. The Budget in Brief is the product of a collaboration between the Office of University Relations, the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration, and the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research.

Using easy-to-interpret graphics, charts and text, the Budget in Brief tells our budget story, showing where the money comes from and how we spend it. The document describes changes in student financial aid, fund balances and the UW’s economic impact. For example, did you know that the federal government provides over 30 percent of our total revenue, while state funds account for 15 percent? Or that our in-state tuition rate ranks seventh among the 13 Big Ten public universities, while our room and board fees are second lowest among our Big Ten peers?

Print copies of the Budget in Brief will be distributed to state and local government officials, legislators, alumni and internal stakeholders in the coming days. If you don’t receive a copy and would like one, email Greg Bump, or look at the online version to learn how our budget works.


Good news on student outcomes

It is good to see evidence of the positive impact of our efforts to improve student outcomes. A few weeks ago we received the latest data from the Office of Academic Planning and Institutional Research (APIR) that shows ongoing progress in graduation rates. Some highlights:

  • For the fourth year in a row, our freshman-sophomore retention rate is more than 95 percent. This fall’s figure of 95.4 percent is more than three percentage points higher than our peer average of 92 percent. The number is even better for students in our targeted minority groups, where the retention rate is 95.7 percent.
  • It’s also worth noting that our freshman class is one of the most diverse that we’ve ever enrolled:
    • 11.2 percent are targeted minorities while 18.2 percent are students of color.
    • 16.7 percent are first-generation students and 8.6 percent are international students.
  • Our four-year graduation rate is 60.7 percent and our six-year bachelor’s degree rate is 85.2 percent. Our most recent peer averages are 59 percent and 80 percent, respectively.
  • Graduation rates for students in our targeted minority groups are 10 percentage points lower than the overall rate (75.2 percent compared to 85.2 percent overall). The gap in six-year graduation rates has narrowed from a 16.5 percentage point gap five years ago to a 10 percentage point gap today, and making sure that this gap continues to decrease is a high priority.

These rates reflect only students who start their college careers at UW-Madison and stay here through graduation. Supplemental data shows that for those who start at UW-Madison about 90 percent graduate with a four-year degree from any school (data that is only available with a lag), adding about 2 points to the UW-Madison four-year graduation rate and about 5 points to the six-year graduation rate.

Overall, our time to degree has fallen from 4.13 elapsed calendar years (the time between the first day of school as a new freshman at UW-Madison to their commencement date) last year to 4.07 for the graduates in 2015-16. This is our lowest average time to degree in the 25 years we have tracked this indicator. Until this year, our average time to degree was slightly higher than our peers. The gap has closed so that we are now almost the same as our peers.

The longer students are enrolled, the higher their costs — both the direct costs of instruction (tuition, room, board, etc.) and the opportunity costs (lost income from work or delayed entrance to graduate school, for example). Students who are enrolled longer consume more student support and financial aid resources. Helping students graduate as fast as possible reduces their debt at graduation and allows our limited institutional grant dollars to support as many students as possible.

A big reason for these outstanding student outcomes is the focus among our faculty and staff on student success and ongoing focus on the quality of the educational experience. The positive trends also show that the investment we’ve made in academic advising over the past several years, and our systematic efforts to give attention to factors that promote progress to degree (such as timely major declaration, enforcing course prerequisites) is paying off.

That we are doing this in an era of rising enrollment and tightening budgets is remarkable. It shows a commitment to providing students with the best educational value at a world-class university, and is obviously good news for students and parents concerned about post-graduation debt. I am thankful for the efforts of faculty, staff and, of course, our brilliant students. I hope you all take as much pride in this as I do. For a deeper dive into the retention and graduation rates and time to degree data, visit the APIR website, at

Visiting southeast Wisconsin

One of the best parts of my job is going out to see the many ways UW-Madison collaborates with Wisconsin businesses and communities. Last week I was in Sturtevant to see how BRP/Evinrude used a UW-Madison software program to build a better outboard motor.

The software program allowed them to simulate a host of product variations without building a budget-busting prototype for each one. It’s a good example of how investment in UW-Madison yields benefits for Wisconsin both in the classroom and for private businesses.

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank (center) and Ian Robertson (left), dean of the College of Engineering, listen as George Broughton (right), director of Advanced Engineering and Innovation BRP / Evinrude, talks about product innovations during a tour of the company's facilities in Sturtevant, Wis., on Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank (center) and Ian Robertson (left), dean of the College of Engineering, listen as George Broughton (right), director of Advanced Engineering and Innovation BRP / Evinrude, talks about product innovations during a tour of the company’s facilities in Sturtevant, Wis., on Oct. 18, 2016. (Photo by Bryce Richter / UW-Madison)

After touring their state-of-the art facility and seeing all of the toys they build, it’s no wonder UW-Madison engineering students want to intern at BRP/Evinrude. Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer working for a company that builds everything from all-terrain vehicles to snowmobiles?

During our meeting, George Broughton, director of Advanced Engineering and Innovation, stressed the importance of liberal arts training in writing, communication and reasoning for engineering students. It’s a theme I hear often from business leaders. The strength of UW-Madison’s liberal arts education is one of the reasons we are one of only four campuses where BRP/Evinrude recruits engineering students for their seven-month co-op program. It’s a terrific program that lets students gain valuable work experience while they are still in school.

Innovative research happens every day on our campus, but seeing firsthand what Wisconsin businesses can create together with our researchers was worth the trip to the Racine area. And I even had time to stop by for a kringle from O&H Danish Bakery.

I also spent a few hours on the UW-Parkside campus with Chancellor Deborah Ford talking to community leaders about the need to reinvest in UW. Many thanks to Chancellor Ford for hosting a great discussion about the critical role higher education plays in the Wisconsin economy.

Eau Claire leaders agree it’s time to reinvest

img_0737UW-Eau Claire Chancellor Jim Schmidt and I met Wednesday with a group of business and community leaders, UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire alumni and supporters on Wednesday at the Eau Claire Golf & Country Club. We talked about the impacts of the state revenue cuts and why it is time to reinvest in UW. Thanks to Chancellor Schmidt and all those who attended for their great questions and support for higher education in Wisconsin.

Looking for additional learning opportunities but can’t move to Madison to attend school full-time? Check out these UW-Madison offerings

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has worked hard to maintain its status as a highly rated educational institution, recently placing 10th among U.S. public universities in U.S. News & World Report’s annual rankings. At the same time, we are working just as hard to become a more accessible educational institution that offers multiple types of educational opportunities.

Most people think of UW-Madison as a traditional residential school, where students live and study in Madison. This is clearly our primary business model, and one at which we have excelled for decades. But the world of higher education is changing and the demand by nontraditional students is growing. Diversifying our offerings by adding some options that follow a different model makes sense.

To open our doors to new categories of students, departments across the university have increased their offerings for nontraditional students. These are often busy professionals with adult responsibilities who can’t put their lives on hold to enroll as full-time residential students. To effectively advance their careers, they require educational options that offer maximum quality and convenience.

We’ve encouraged academic departments to think creatively about such programs, with tremendous success. In 2015, UW-Madison launched to showcase our growing menu of online, hybrid, accelerated, and evening/weekend programs.

Our flexible credit-bearing programs currently include 30 advanced degrees, 20 capstone certificates, and a bachelor’s degree, all of which allow professionals to earn additional credentials without interrupting their careers. Students can work toward a master of science in biotechnology by attending weekend and evening classes; a bachelor of science in nursing by combining online and face-to-face classes; and a master of engineering in engine systems by working entirely online. Among the accelerated programs is the capstone certificate program in actuarial science, which students can complete in as little as nine months.

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