State of the University Address

UW–Madison is a World-Class University. How Can We Keep It That Way?

State of the University Address

UW System Board of Regents

Thurs., Feb. 10, 2022

Chancellor Blank’s Slides

Slide 1:  Title Slide

Flagship universities – big research universities – are complex institutions.  At UW–Madison we manage:

  • 48,000 students
  • 20,000 faculty and staff, and
  • $3.6B budget
  • With a very diverse group of stakeholders

These institutions are deeply important to their states and to the nation

  • Important for education
    • At Madison, we graduated a record number of undergraduates and professional-school students last year — these highly trained, highly skilled people are the future of this state.
  • Important for discovery and innovation
  • People and families benefit directly from our work – from more effective treatments for cancer to better farming techniques to smarter shoreline preservation.
  • WI businesses also benefit directly from our work – we provide the building blocks of scientific advancement, which they then use to develop new products and services.
  • These contributions in both education and research are important for economic growth.
  • We fuel start-ups and attract companies in the region that want to be near a top research university.
  • We generate revenue for the state. The state provides just under 15% of our direct revenue – that means we generate more than $3B in revenue based on our own activities.   For instance, we bring $5B into Wisconsin annually from out-of-state dollars through Federal and private research grants and out-of-state tuition dollars.

But the strength, quality and reputation of these big flagship campuses can only be created over long periods of time.  One of my favorite political figures, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, once said:

“If you want to create a great city <and I would say “a state as well”>, First, create a great university…then wait 100 years.”

To build a university with a world-class reputation that attracts faculty, research capacity, and students requires many years of strategic investment.

To maintain that reputation is equally difficult.  These institutions are fragile, particularly at a high level of quality.  It’s much easier to go downhill than to maintain or grow quality.

  • Faculty are mobile (and have become more so in recent decades). Top faculty are constantly receiving inquiries from other universities.
  • Students are mobile – every year a new group of students can choose to go elsewhere if something damages our reputation.
  • Competition for research dollars is fierce…for instance, only 20% of research grant applications to the National Institutes of Health get funded.

Don’t ever take the quality of UW–Madison for granted…if we aren’t working every day to maintain and grow this quality, it will start to erode.  Maintaining quality requires maintaining the support of the state and its citizens.  As a public institution, top-quality research universities require bipartisan support across administrations, parties, and political environments.

I have been in leadership here at UW–Madison for nine years.  I want to use this time to tell you what we’ve done to maintain and grow quality in recent years.  And I want to talk about the challenges that this university is facing that I hope you will all have in mind as you hire and work with a new Chancellor.

First, a few of the things we’ve accomplished.   On the education front, we’ve expanded the quality, size, and diversity of UW’s students, while also improving financial aid and access.  All of this helps us serve WI better than ever.


Slide 2:  What we’ve accomplished – higher quality

  • The quality of our students has risen:
    • Average test scores are up, although since we’ve gone test optional in the last two years, this measure is no longer as useful.
    • So instead, let’s look at the number of National Merit finalists enrolled at UW-Madison. We’ve more than doubled that number in our freshman class since 2013.
      • Total – 2013:   2021:  132
      • WI resident – 2013: 56. 2021: 87

We’re serving students better with expanded advising, expanded mental health services, a wonderful new health/wellness facility (the Nick) and another underway (Bakke Center), and new majors that reflect students’ (and employers’) needs and interests.  For example, in recent years we’ve started:

  • Undergraduate degrees in Data Science and Global Health
  • Master’s degrees in Business Analytics and Financial Economics (L&S)

Great teaching, a strong campus culture and a constantly evolving modern curriculum is what attracts great students.

Slide 3:  What we’ve accomplished – expanded enrollment

  • Despite declines in the number of Wisconsin high school graduates, our applications among Wisconsin students have NOT declined. And we’ve seen huge increases in out-of-state applicants.
  • My first fall here, we were very happy to receive 30,000 freshman applications; we’ve just gotten word that this year, we’ve received more than 60,000.
  • With your help in revising the in-state/out-of-state requirements, we’ve been able to take advantage of our rapidly growing pool of first-rate out-of-state applicants.

Why does this matter?

  • These students add diversity and pay tuition at a rate that supports our programs and subsidizes our in-state students. This has been particularly important during a period when in-state tuition has been frozen for nine straight years.
  • Our ability to attract out-of-state students is also critical to the future of WI as the number of HS graduates in this state continues to shrink. We bring more than 20,000 smart graduate & undergrad students to this campus every year from outside of Wisconsin. No other institution in the state brings highly talented individuals to Wisconsin in such large numbers.
  • We’re working hard with Wisconsin employers to keep our students here after graduation by showcasing all the reasons to stay and work in this state.

These rising applications reflect our strong reputation as an educational institution.  And the rising demand isn’t slowing down.

Slide 4:  What we’ve accomplished – greater diversity

As we’ve grown in size and strength, we’ve also increased diversity.

  • More students of color
    • In 2017, our incoming freshman class included about 700 students from historically underrepresented groups … this year’s freshman class includes more than 1,200.
  • 25% of our freshman are students of color, and 15% of our freshmen are students of color from historically under-represented groups — an all-time high and up substantially from just a few years ago.
  • Meanwhile, we’ve maintained a strong number of first-gen students
    • Modest increase – 6,000 in 2013 to 6,300 in 2021

It’s important to recognize that bringing in a more diverse class isn’t enough.  The institution itself has to become more open to diversity; more multicultural.

We’ve focused multiple efforts on increasing awareness of issues related to issues of diversity and inclusion on campus.

  • Expanded faculty hiring
    • 31 new faculty of color have joined us over the last year
    • 243 have joined us over the last five years
  • This happened in part because of a focused central effort to provide funding for departments to recruit new faculty from groups not well-represented within their discipline.
  • Most schools and colleges have diversity plans, as do a growing number of departments. This issue is top of mind across the university.
  • Created a new framework to support some of education and training programs that have been implemented across campus.
    • For instance, our annual Diversity Forum attracted nearly 3,000 attendees – virtual and in person in 2021. This is a chance to learn from experts and from one another about successful efforts that might be scale-able.
  • Successfully launched Raimey-Noland Campaign, providing funds for scholarships, programming, and faculty research that focuses on diversity.
    • Hoped to raise $10M … now at nearly $70M.
  • 82 students in the fall freshman class have newly available Raimey-Noland scholarships.

Slide 5:  What we’ve accomplished – greater access

Expanded access for all students, but especially WI students

  • Quadrupled institutional scholarship dollars in the last 14 years
  • 2007 = $25M; 2021 = nearly $100M
  • These new dollars allowed us to implement Bucky’s Tuition Promise and Badger Promise.
  • Expanded professional masters’ programs, both in-person, hybrid, and online.
  • Now launching undergrad online opportunities. Until last fall, we had no online degrees for undergraduates.  We now have five and more to come. Examples:
    • BBA in Business with a focus on Management and Human Resources
    • BS in Personal Finance
    • These degrees are designed to serve a whole new population of students — returning adults who may already have some college credits and are now ready to finish their degree.

The competition for top students among U.S. universities is fierce, particularly in the Midwest and northeast where the number of high school students is declining.  Very few schools have been able to do what we’ve done at UW-Madison, with substantial increases in applicants that we’ve been able to turn into increased class size with higher quality and greater diversity.

But education is only one part of our mission.  We’ve also had significant research accomplishments.

Slide 6:  Research expenditures at UW-Madison

UW–Madison is a top 10 university in its research expenditures.  Last year, we brought in $1.5B in new awards and spent $1.4B.

  • There’s no other research facility — public or private — in Wisconsin that comes close to us in size and scope.  We raised and spent $1.4B on research.  The next largest school in the UW System spent $61m on research, only 4% of our research scope.
    • Note: UW–Milwaukee, spent $61M last year; next is Stevens Point with $4.8M.
  • When I arrived, research expenditures were declining. We’ve worked hard to turn that around.  Over the last nine years, our research expenditures grew 17%.
  • The declines happened during two biennia of deep budget cuts and that terrible fight over tenure, when we lost a number of our top faculty and top grant-getters. That political dispute — at a time when other universities’ research grew strongly — was enough to drop us from the top 5 to the top 10.
  • In FY2021, which closed at the end of June, we submitted over 100 more extramural proposals than in the previous year.  Even better, we grew our total awards by $200M, an increase of over 15%.
  • We need to maintain that strong rate of growth. But the competition for this money is fierce.  Over the past five years, our research expenditures increased by just under 18%.  That’s a very strong growth rate.  But research expenditures among the top five schools grew 22%.

Slide 7:  Keeping research strong

  • We want to continue to grow our research enterprise. That requires being strategic and targeting research areas that we know federal agencies are funding.
    • For instance, there are big funding opportunities are in biomedical sciences, atmospheric sciences, education, data science, and quantum physics. We want to compete successfully in these areas.
      • For example, we recently met with senior Army officials to explore partnership opportunities with the Dept of Defense in virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, video game development, and game theory.
  • Having the top faculty is key to our research enterprise. We’ve expanded faculty expertise in a strategic way.
    • The Cluster Hire Program began in 2018. It has allowed us to hire groups of 3-4 faculty in key areas of emerging research interest.  This also enriches our educational offerings in these areas.
    • We’ve also been growing faculty more generally across many areas. Our faculty size shrank in the late 1990s.  In the past few years, we’ve expanded our faculty by nearly 200 people.  But we are still about 100 faculty short of where we were 30 years ago (when there were 8,000 fewer students on this campus).
      • We’ve needed to do this as we’ve increased class size, but it helps us grow research as well.
  • Another major opportunity is in industry research partnerships.
    • UW-Madison has not always been the easiest place to work with as a research partner. We’ve worked hard over the last nine years to change that, and at the heart of our work is the collaborative work between our schools and colleges and the Office of Business Engagement, created five years ago to improve how we link businesses to student recruitment and research on campus.
    • We’re seeing results: Industry dollars flowing into UW-Madison from corporate partners, which support not only research but also student scholarships and public service projects, increased by 60% between 2013 and 2020, and we expect continued growth.
    • And I’d note: Our work with industry is much more than tapping into new revenue streams: it’s central to our mission of public outreach and a great example of the WI Idea in action

Slide 8:  CDIS

  • One example of the critical need for growth in both educational programming and research is computer sciences. A first-class computer and data science program is a necessity for a first-class university – and for a state that wants to build its reputation as a regional and national beacon for high tech industry.
  • We created the School of Computer, Data and Information Sciences (CDIS) in 2019 to respond to extraordinary demand from students, employers, and industry partners.
    • Computer Science is now the #1 undergraduate major
      • Five years ago = 300 undergraduate majors. Now = 2,100.
    • And thousands of undergraduates from every major you can think of are taking classes at CDIS.
      • One of the first introductory classes aimed at non-majors last year enrolled students from 72 different majors.
  • Now we need a building worthy of the nationally ranked departments that live there (including our very successful American Family Data Science Institute) and worthy of our standing as a premier research institution.
    • We kicked off a major fundraising campaign in September to build a new building with the announcement of two major gifts. Unlike nearly every other academic building here at UW, this facility will be built entirely with support from alumni and friends.  We still have a bit more fundraising to do and hope to start construction early next year.

All of the things I’ve talked about in education and research require resources.  With frozen in-state tuition and declining state investment, we’ve needed to generate our own investment income at UW-Madison.  I have worked to change the culture around fund-raising at UW-Madison.  We can’t just wait for the state to give us more funding; If we want to maintain our quality, we have to be entrepreneurial, generating much of our own revenue for investment.

Slide 9:  Strategies for funding our public mission

How do we do this?

(1) Expanded research and development dollars

    • I’ve already talked about this.

(2) Expanded summer semester

    • We began to expand our summer offerings in 2016 and we’ve seen extraordinary growth:
        • Summer tuition revenue is up 75%
    • Expanding summer session is a win-win. It generates more revenue but it’s also an important educational benefit for our students.
      • Students are taking advantage of summer to complete their distribution requirements and graduate on time. This drives down time-to-degree and reduces student debt.

(3) Expanded philanthropic support

    • Top priority when I arrived: I’ve worked closely with Mike Knetter and the UW Foundation to improve our fundraising capacity, particularly involving deans and department chairs much more in fundraising.
    • We’ve just completed the six-year All Ways Forward campaign
      • 2015: Goal of $3.2B goal set on a campus whose most successful campaign to date had raised about half that much.
      • We closed the campaign at the end of December at $4.2B

(4) Set market-based tuition for out-of-state students and professional schools. Regents have been an important partner in this.

    • Allows us to tap into a deep pool of qualified out-of-state students while maintaining our commitment to WI residents.
    • Helps us provide the same quality of educational experience at UW that our peer schools provide.

(5) Expanded professional master’s degrees

    • We began a concerted effort in 2014 to grow certificates and degrees for working professionals. The result:
      • Students in these programs now comprise about ¼ of our graduate school enrollment.
      • Net revenue has increased to $53M in 2021.
      • Most popular professional degrees are MS Economics, MA Library & Info Studies, and a part-time Social Work master’s degree.

(6) Grown our undergraduate enrollment – we’ve now completed five years of growth.

(7) Newly launched strategy: Real estate development.  You are familiar with this topic.  You approved an MOU in October that allows us to move forward to explore potential options.

Slide 10:  Impacts

What has been the impact of these efforts? I’ve told you about the growth in scholarships and the creation of Bucky’s Tuition Promise.

Let me tell you about five other areas where we’ve been able to use our new investment funds to make major improvements.

  • First, our investments in expanded advising and in educational programs like the summer semester have increased graduation rates and decreased time to degree.
    • Six-year graduation rate of 89% is the highest ever.
    • The graduation gap for undergraduates between all students and historically underrepresented students has been cut nearly in half in the last decade (now a 7-point difference).
    • And undergraduate time-to-degree of 3.9 years (40 days less than 4 calendar years) is the lowest ever.
    • These improvements are driving student debt down.
      • The share of undergraduates graduating without student loans has grown by 10 points in the past eight years to 57%.
      • At the national level, only about one third of students graduate with no debt.
      • Student default rate on federal loans is less than 1% compared to 9% nationally and 3% at other WI schools.
  • Our revenue-building strategies also have allowed us to bring faculty salaries to a place where we’re again competitive for top people.
    • Nine years ago, our full professors were making nearly 13% less than professors at our designated peer institutions. We were 12th among our 12 official peer schools in faculty salaries. This was a huge threat to our ability to hire top faculty and a reason why we were constantly dealing with retention issues.
    • Today, our faculty salaries are #5 among our peer schools.
  • But competitive salaries for faculty alone aren’t enough – we need to compete for top graduate students in order to attract top faculty.
    • Eight years ago, we began a focused effort to improve our graduate student stipends.
    • Minimum stipend for TA has grown by 43% in that time, going from near bottom of major research universities around the country to above median.
  • Finally, we’ve invested in major administrative improvements.
      • The Title and Total Compensation project has given us, for the first time ever, uniform titles for staff and a compensation structure that’s benchmarked to the marketplace. This is critical to attracting and retaining great employees.
      • Administrative Transformation Program – You know all about the value of ATP in modernizing how we do business.
      • Cybersecurity –We’ve made multiple investments to upgrade security and educate our employees about how to keep information safe online.

Slide 11:  Commencement photo

  • And one of the best accomplishments of all – bringing commencement back to Camp Randall!


Slide 12:  Challenges

But many challenges remain.  I want to talk about five of them:

  1. Lagging growth in revenues
  2. Serious constraints on maintaining our capital infrastructure
  3. One-size-fits-all System policies that put us at a competitive disadvantage
  4. In-state tuition freeze that has lasted throughout the entire nine years I’ve been at UW-Madison
  5. The divided and divisive political environment, which can spark unwarranted criticisms of flagship universities.

Slide 13:  Challenge #1:  Lagging growth in revenues

  • UW-Madison remains at serious risk of losing its competitive position. Nine years ago we were in crisis…showing declining revenues when all of our peers were growing.
  • Let me be clear about how bad things were: We had state budget cuts in the 2011, 2013 and 2015 budgets.  The net GPR cut over those six years was $98 million.  This happened at a time when none of our peers were experiencing budget cuts.
  • By doing what we’ve done with increased revenues, we turned that around and have done some significant catch-up but we are still below our peers. Maintaining the same rate of growth as our peers will be challenging, especially without any new investments from the state.  If we were to see future state budget cuts (for example, another $40M cut like the one we received in the 2013-15 biennium) or loss of our GPR, we would be back in the world we were in when I arrived, dealing with falling revenues while our peers continue to grow.
  • So let me be clear – with all of the revenue growth and innovations that have been implemented during my time here, we are still below our peers and haven’t caught up.
  • Do not assume UW-Madison is in good financial shape. The right comparison is not with other UW-System schools, but with our peer schools.  In that comparison, we are still behind where we need to be, and have clearly lost competitive ground.

Slide 14:  Recommendations

  • If we’re going to maintain our competitive position, we need ongoing support for UW-Madison’s efforts to expand revenues and a commitment by the State and the System to continue funding UW-Madison at a level commensurate with its quality, its size, and the contributions that it provides to the state. Cutting UW-Madison’s funding is a fool’s journey if you really want to help the state.
  • Many of you have seen the report that indicates that once you remove the funding for programs at UW-Madison that are unique to us, such as the medical school, vet med, and Extension – our GPR funding/student is virtually identical to UW-Milwaukee.  Do not put us at risk of falling lower than this.

Slide 15:  Challenge #2:  Fewer state dollars for capital projects

  • In recent years we’ve gotten approval for several critical projects – for example, the School of Veterinary Medicine and the new Letters & Science building (Irving & Dorothy Levy Hall).
  • These and others are transformative projects and I appreciate the Regents’ support, and the support of the Legislature and the Governor.
  • However, our share of state funding for capital projects has fallen steadily for decades:
    • We are 52% of System’s total revenues and receive 45% of the total state appropriation.  And given our much larger footprint, including properties across the state – we are an even higher share of the total property value in the System.
    • Yet, we have consistently received far less than this share of the capital budget within the System.  Over the past 5 biennia, we have received only 30% of the General Fund Supported Borrowing to support our capital assets.
  • From 2001-2011, the average of the state’s capital investment in UW-Madison was 45% of the funds for all System schools, which was about the same as the total state appropriation.  However, from 2011 to 2021, UW-Madison’s share of GFSB dropped 15 percentage points to 30%. In 2019-21, the state-supported borrowing at other System schools was 3x what we received.
  • I understand that we are able to raise more private funds for buildings than some of the other schools in the System. But we also have a much older set of buildings as well as a need for far more specialized research-intensive buildings.  At the Capital Planning & Budget Committee, Rob Cramer showed how far behind we are in maintaining our old buildings.
  • Given the lack of funding, it has gotten progressively harder to do the things we need to do to keep our university functioning effectively.
    • Example: High on our list of must-do projects is to empty the aging and almost entirely dysfunctional Humanities building.  But to do that, we need space where we can move the Art Department and the Music Department.
    • But there is little willingness to put state bonding into a music building or art studios. These won’t get through the political approval process, but we must find a way to solve these issues if we’re going to meet the needs of our students today and in the future.

Slide 16:  Reinvestments falling behind peer institutions

  • As I said, we are uniquely constrained – and as a result we’ve fallen out of step with our peers. I showed you that we’ve fallen behind our peers in revenues.  We’ve fallen even further behind in capital spending.
  • This graph shows a five-year rolling average of investment in facilities. The black line represents the total amount of need – whether for new projects or maintenance – as calculated based on commonly used metrics.
  • Among our Big 10 peers, we’re at the bottom, spending far less than we should to maintain our campus. The A-through-G bars represent a group of other universities including some privates: Cornell, Duke, Johns Hopkins, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, University of Pittsburgh, and University of Washington.  They’re shown this way to keep them anonymous.
  • As you can see, the Big 10 is falling behind other schools, and we’re falling behind the Big 10. We are spending less than one-quarter what we should be spending on our facilities.  This is no way to maintain the kind of campus students and faculty expect at a first-rate university.

Slide 17:  Deferred maintenance continues to grow

  • As our proportional dollars from the state capital budget have shrunk, our buildings have continued to age. Our lack of investments led to a deferred maintenance backlog of $1.5B in 2019 – and it’s grown larger since then.  This is a huge threat to the long-term quality of UW-Madison.

What are the primary constraints?

Slide 18:  Challenge #2a:  No Borrowing Authority

First, we have no borrowing authority.  Every time we do major building renovations or construction that is not entirely funded by gifts and grants, we need approval of the Governor, the Assembly, the Senate, the System and the State Building Commission.  This complete lack of control over our capital assets creates serious difficulties, particularly at a $3.6B organization whose reputation in part rests upon its scientific and educational facilities.

  • No other state has a flagship (or a System) without borrowing authority.
  • This puts the burden on us to find gift/grant funding in order to move projects forward in anything approaching a timely manner – and we’ve been able to do that for some critical needs.
  • But there are many areas where we do not have major donors available. We are not going to get private gifts to fix the HVAC systems and otherwise renovate our aging buildings.  And we don’t have any donors who can fund a major new art building, so that department can vacate Humanities.  We need bonding authority along with state and System support.

Slide 19:  Challenge #2b:  Lack of control over state-managed capital projects

  • We have no control over the process of building buildings.
    • The state signs the contracts and we have no input into those contracts. The result has been contracts with very limited damages clauses and very limited penalties for delays.
    • Once the contract is signed we have no authority over the project. The result has been ongoing cost overruns and delayed projects.  We are responsible for paying these cost overruns and we have to deal with the consequences of these delays.  But we have none of the authority that would allow us to reduce these problems.
    • No other flagship has zero control over what’s in the contract, or oversight over projects.
  • Example: Chemistry Building – central to our teaching/research missions.
    • Basic construction elements – the elevators and HVAC system – failed when the building was close to completion.
    • The result for Chemistry: 9,000 students and 450 course sections were moved to spaces not designed for teaching chemistry.
    • We’ve lost an estimated $3.2M in research, and this is not a final number.
    • The contract had limited damages clauses and limited compensation for delays. As a result, we are limited in our ability to hold anyone responsible for these problems.  We bear many of the costs.
  • Our inability to control decisions over capital renovation, repair or construction has led to dollars wasted due to:
    • Delayed projects
    • Cost overruns
    • Construction problems from subcontractors and contractors who know they will bear limited responsibility for any problems.
  • We are the ones who end up paying the bills and bearing the costs of delay. And we are the ones who have to work in these buildings.

Slide 20:  Recommendations

  • This cannot continue. We MUST have greater control over these projects.  That’s management 101:  Align incentives so the people who have to pay for and live in the building are responsible for getting things built and built well, on time, and within budget.
  • For new projects and major renovations:
    • Work with us to get approval for program revenue bonding,
    • Work with us to give us more control over contracts signed and construction project oversight.

Slide 21:  Challenge #3:  One-Size-Fits-All Policies

  • UW-Madison is different from the other System schools – different students, major research operations, different funding streams, etc.  One-size-fits-all policies from System consistently harm UW-Madison and limit its competitiveness.
    • We have 48,000 students,
      • Double the # of the next-largest System school (UWM 24,000)
      • Third-largest UW-Oshkosh has 14,000
    • Furthermore, our students are different along a number of dimensions. Most notably, the great majority of them are considering schools outside WI, often across the country if not the world.  We compete in a different market.
    • As noted earlier, our $1.4B in research expenditures are on an entirely different scale than others.
    • We compete in a different market for faculty talent as well.
  • There are times when UW-Madison needs to be treated differently and given greater flexibility.
    • Example: Our efforts to implement the Common App.
      • Our Big Ten peers began moving to the Common App in 2010. I raised this issue in early 2014.  The first reaction from the System was complete dismissal.
      • We finally got approval to move to the Common App in 2016 but were told we had to stay on the System app for at least one more year. By the way, this movement to the Common App is one reason for the huge growth in our applications in recent years.  Students who are applying from around the state, the nation, and all over the world can now apply to UW-Madison in the same way they apply to other schools.
      • We’ve since been told we cannot go off the System app, even though only about 12% of our applications come that way. This means that our admissions office is constantly dealing with applications from two entirely different platforms.  This costs time and money.
    • Another example: The inflexible BOR policy that requires us to seek BOR approval for all contracts over $1M (which is most of our larger contracts these days).
      • Although I know you have tried to expedite these reviews, they still add a minimum of one month to the process, which has led to us losing out on industry partnerships that would be good for UW-Madison, for the state, and for the business community.  And we’ve yet to find a single contract we’ve brought that the Regents have NOT approved.
      • This is a vestige of a time when conducting research with private businesses was viewed as outside of our mission and deserving of special scrutiny. But those days are long past.
      • Our peer institutions recognize this – none of them has this type of board oversight. For example, Michigan and Minnesota have no monetary threshold requiring board approval of research contracts; the authority lies with the university president or chancellor. At schools that DO require board approval for some contracts, the threshold is much higher.
      • The delays inherent in this process are especially problematic for industry-sponsored clinical trials that enable access to potentially life-saving therapies for patients.  And healthcare related agreements make up the vast majority (about ¾) of the contracts we’ve submitted in recent years for your approval.  The current industry standard for initiating clinical trials is less than 60 days from first contact by the sponsor to beginning of patient enrollment, which is virtually impossible for us to meet.

Slide 22:  Recommendations

  • On this issue, I am asking that we be given the ability to approve industry contracts within UW-Madison, reporting quarterly to the BOR about what contracts we’ve taken on.
  • More broadly:
    • Understand that UW-Madison operates in a different environment than many of the other System schools. Do not insist on one-size-fits-all policies.

Slide 23:  Challenge #4:  Nine years of frozen in-state tuition

  • We’ve fallen out of step with the marketplace. Our in-state tuition is much further below our peers than is in-state tuition at other UW system schools relative to their peers.
  • As long as some of our closest peer schools receive 50% more in tuition for every in-state student they admit, UW-Madison will struggle to compete with them and maintain the same level of quality. Over time, we simply will not be able to provide the same educational or research experience these schools provide.
  • Furthermore, while this tuition freeze has been in place, state funding per student has continued to fall as well, so we have a double-whammy of a tuition freeze and declines in the state subsidy for students.
    • 10 years ago, we were receiving the equivalent of $14,000/student in state GPR dollars. (Note that money goes for many things, beyond our undergrad students – it supports a medical school, a veterinary school, and lots of agricultural facilities across the state.)  This year, we are at about $10,400/student.
  • Our student body is different than at other UW system schools – they are often looking at a very different set of comparison schools (which are far more expensive than UW-Madison) when deciding where to go to college.
  • Furthermore, UW-Madison has put substantial resources into expanding affordability for lower-income Wisconsin students so that higher tuition will not negatively impact this group.
  • As long as some of our closest peer schools receive 50% more in tuition for every in-state student they admit, UW-Madison will struggle to compete with them and maintain the same level of quality. Over time, we simply will not be able to provide the same educational or research experience these schools provide.

Slide 24:  Recommendations

  • We’re providing a high-value degree and for many of our students, we can remain affordable without charging bargain-basement prices.
  • Work with us and with political leadership to allow us to institute in-state tuition policies more in line with our peers in the upper Midwest, while holding us accountable for providing the access for lower and middle-income families in Wisconsin who need financial aid.

Slide 25:  Challenge #5:  The divided and divisive political environment

  • The last major challenge I want to discuss is the growing politicization of higher education, and the growing willingness of some politicians to attack universities (particularly the flagship).
  • Let me be clear on two things:
    • First, I see this on both sides of the aisle, although the criticisms are often quite different;
    • Second, this is not unique to Wisconsin; it is happening across the country. Where we once were a nation with high, bipartisan support for higher education and particularly public higher education, we are now a nation deeply divided along political lines on the value of universities.
  • Here in Wisconsin, the Foundation and Alumni Association conducted a poll of 930 WI residents in December 2021. Some of the questions were designed to gauge public support for the university.  The results were similar to national polls:
    • About 70% of Democrats but just 45% of Republicans approve of the job we’re doing.
    • A similar divide on the question of whether a degree from UW-Madison is valuable and worth the cost: 65% of Democrats said yes, but only 41% of Republicans agreed with that statement.
  • I mention this not to criticize Republicans; indeed, several bills of great importance to the university have been authored by Republican legislators and are currently moving through the legislative process. I want to thank those who have authored and signed onto those bills, which I hope that they will pass this session.  And I want to thank Gov Evers in advance, who I believe will sign this legislation if it passes, and who has supported the university.
  • Rather, I mention the partisan divide because, for public institutions that depend on the trust and confidence of the people, this polarization is dangerous.

It can threaten the federal funding we rely on to do the kind of basic research that made the COVID vaccine possible… and it empowers politicians seeking to score points with voters to use our universities – and especially flagship campuses – as political chips in the partisan wars.  Two examples:

  • Forcing us to lower our annual fund balances, which limits our flexibility, hurts us relative to our peers, and goes against all financial advice.
  • Criticizing the ways in which we’ve enforced health and safety rules on our campus – and this criticism has come from both sides of the aisle, although on different issues.

Slide 26:  Recommendations

  • No public institution can survive in the long run without public support.
  • Request of the BOR: Actively engage with political leadership on both sides of the aisle when they criticize the university.  Sometimes the criticism is warranted, and we need to respond.  But sometimes it’s just political posturing.  We need you to be a consistent voice of support for the value of a world-class research university.  Speak up for the importance of our System institutions to the state, particularly the flagship.


Slide 27:  (landing slide – campus photo)

For a number of years, UW-Madison was essentially standing still, if not moving backwards, in large part because of reduced budgets.  We’ve turned that around, thanks to your help, to our alumni, and to the very good work of many of our faculty and staff.

I’ve talked about some of our accomplishments and challenges, and how to address these challenges in a way that keeps UW-Madison competitive moving forward – but this is just the beginning of a conversation that needs to continue.

We’ve made some important investments in a strong future, but our peers are also investing.  No one can take the quality and reputation of UW-Madison for granted, assuming that its reputation will remain strong.   It wouldn’t take much for faculty salaries to fall again, for our research dollars to stall, for student interest to decline, or for us to start losing faculty again to other universities.

If we’re going to maintain our reputation and our quality, we need to continue to invest and grow in the right ways.  To do that, we need resources — and we will help generate those — combined with a smart strategy for the future — that will be the job of the new Chancellor.

We also need governance that recognizes that the state’s flagship campus is different and needs to be able to compete nationally and internationally in ways that other System schools do not.  And we need recognition from our political leadership of the value of this university to the state of Wisconsin.

Thank you and I’ll be happy to take questions.