UW System: Shut Her Down Redux

Recently I posted a suggestion on how the University of Wisconsin system can make up for the $300 million cuts to their support from the State of Wisconsin as proposed by Governor Scott Walker. With a little bit of snark and a bit of sarcasm I have suggested that the University System close some marginal campuses until they reach the $300 million dollar amount or so. But there is some logic behind it…and I’ll expound on it a bit.

$300 million is a lot of money even in the universe of the state budget and the university budget. It will be difficult for the university to accomplish…and I don’t think they can do it by cutting the lawns less frequently, turning the thermostats to 66 next winter or buying cheaper toilet paper if that’s even possible.

They are going to have to lay off a lot of people and possibly reduce offerings at many of their campuses. A lot of difficult decisions will have to be made and a lot of people’s lives will be affected: faculty, staff, students, and vendors.

Now it seems that this shouldn’t be in Governor Walker’s wheel house because it will result in job loss when he’s hard pressed already to create jobs. But these are ‘public’ jobs…not private sector jobs so they aren’t real jobs. Government doesn’t create jobs…well except when you have campaign promises to make.

But let’s face it…if they lay off 500 at Milwaukee, 1000 at Madison, 300 at Whitewater, 80 at Platteville, etc, etc, etc…whether faculty or staff…there will be angry letters to the editor, hand wringing all round, but a year from now other than the victims…nobody will remember. And if 150,000 people in the streets of Madison in a cold February didn’t quash Act 10…don’t expect that Madison will be swayed by a bunch of liberal academics. Playing nice ain’t gonna get it.

So my suggestion stands. There are a number of campuses that run at a loss…that have debt. Shut them down. There are some rather small campuses that could be shut down to get us to the $300 million figure. Yes I understand that they serve small communities that need higher education opportunities too…but the hard decisions need to be made and something’s got to go. Those rural students can go to Green Bay or Oshkosh or Milwaukee…assume those campuses survive.

They can’t go to Madison cause after 2017 only the rich will be able to afford to go there…or those who can contribute to the research facilities.

The GOP is fond of saying we should run government like a business…schools get better when they have to compete. Here’s where it hurts. If Macy’s needs to cut overhead they don’t lay off one associate per store…they close marginal stores in stagnant markets. Cut the universities marginal stores…if they are in red zones so much the better.

Like I said…proportional cuts across the system will be forgotten in a year’s time. Closing a campus that is an economic engine in a smaller community or county will hurt. Laying off 1,500 people there will have a far bigger impact that will be noticeable for years. Six or Eight or Twelve or Twenty boarded up buildings on a deserted campus will be highly visible. Yes this is brinkmanship…but at some point push does have to lead to shove. Yes sometimes it does.

Yes…there is a bit of snark here. I realize that the University of Wisconsin is not a business nor a product…and it’s job is to create educated citizens of all types…but those under the dome don’t get it.


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4 thoughts on “UW System: Shut Her Down Redux

  1. The irony is that those of us who are very pro-education will see our motivated, sharp, innovative offspring continue to successfully go on to good secondary schools both within and outside the state. Because we and they will always find a way. I think the interesting angle is about who gets left behind. For one, poorly educated charter school kids and for another, children of parents who don’t prioritze education (and others as well). Walker’s base seems to love him but what on earth makes them think the feeling is mutual?

  2. I share your dismay, and appreciate your creative approach, but this would be “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” on super-nuclear-extraplanetary-mega steroids.

    UW-Green Bay has an annual operating budget of $128M. So just shut UW-GB down, and we’ve nearly fixed the $150M budget hole, right? Nope. UW-GB only gets about $26M in state funding per year. The other $102M comes from tuition, fees, room & board, federal grants, and a little in gifts and trusts. Of course, that all goes away too if we shut it down.

    To get to $150M savings in state funding, we’d need to shut down Green Bay, Superior, Platteville, Whitewater, and La Crosse. (Or, you could spare one of these by shutting down all 13 2-yr campuses.) In doing so, you’re forfeiting $700M in other funding and putting 40,000 students out on their butts. (Actually, that kinda sounds like something Walker would be into.)

    A slightly more modest proposal to get people exorcised about UW funding might be to call attention to the tuition disaster that awaits students 2017-18.

    The DPW (or better yet the UW or its Alumni Association) should put out public service messages warning current UW students that they need to forget about jobs or internships for the next 4 semesters (plus summer and winter term!) and take as many credits as humanly possible. Even high schoolers should should try to take courses for credit at the local 2-yr campuses or see if they can graduate early.

  3. Ed, I don’t agree, but thanks, as always, for a clear articulation of the issues.

    Below is the trend in education:

    “UW-Madison to expand distance learning with Massive Open Online Courses”


    For auditing purposes, a brick and mortar presence is still necessary. Someone has to confirm that distance learning student xyz is a real person and really learned what they claimed to learn online. Whatever “right-sizing” the UW System has to do, I think the growth trajectory of MOOC’s have to be factored into that.

    As with infrastructure and health care, education should be a prime recipient of FEDERAL dollars.

    “(Federal) Taxes For Revenue Are Obsolete”


    There’s no fiscal reason the federal government can’t give every high school graduate $80,000. The graduate is free to spend/save that money any way they want. (That may not be the best way to do it, I’m just throwing that out there). That “stimulus” would be a huge boon to all colleges and universities. They would need to hire a lot more faculty and staff.

    Wisconsin state taxes however, imho would still be needed because I want the UW System focused on Wisconsin issues. That doesn’t mean research/teaching will only affect Wisconsin, but Wisconsin should be the first priority.

    “Sex and the Single Perch” is a terrific example of aquaculture from the UW Milwaukee.


    OT, excellent letter from Lt. Col. Hall:

    “Letter to the Assembly on the importance of the UW System”


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