Category: The national context

When Does the University of Wisconsin Cease to be a Public University?

Mike Brost, a University of Wisconsin-Madison senior from Shorewood, asks in Friday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at what point does a state university cease to be a university?

Brost writes that state spending on higher education has fallen 28 percent since 2008, and UW-Madison receives just 15 percent of its budget from the state. Nationally, as state funding drops, tuition increases — 231 percent over the past 30 years.

At the same time, Brost observes investment in public higher education is a good for the state’s economy:

With $1.2 billion in state funding, the UW System contributes more than $15 billion to Wisconsin’s economy.

Brost argues that if current trends continue, Wisconsin’s funding of higher education will end in 2040.

The full article is here.


University Boards and the New Normal

wiscapeJane Wellman, the executive director of the National Commission on College and University Board Governance, will visit UW-Madison tomorrow and participate in a discussion on changes to college and university boards.

University Boards and the New Normal, a conversation with Jane Wellman will be held at 4 pm on Wednesday, June 11 in Room 159 Education, 1000 Bascom Mall. It is free and open to the public.

The talk is sponsored by WISCAPE, the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education.

The continued defunding of public higher education has put enormous pressure on governance boards, and in some cases, resulted in changes to shared governance. Wellman will discuss these challenges and explore ways in which to improve the functionality of public-sector governing boards.

States Still Funding Higher Education at Pre-Recession Levels

cbpp logoThe Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently released a report on public higher education funding, finding that Wisconsin is one of just eight states that continued to cut higher education spending in 2013-14.

All but two states are spending less per student than before the recession, but funding is beginning to improve after several years of cuts:

higher education funding 2013-14

The recession has resulted in steep tuition increases (28 percent since 2007-08 on average) and cuts in staff and programs. Tuition in Wisconsin rose more than 21 percent over the past six years.

Like Demos reported earlier, states have shifted the cost of higher education to students and their families through increased tuition and funding cuts. The CBPP found that tuition revenue is greater than state tax funding in 23 states.

The Great Cost Shift Continues

Demos, a non-partisan research and policy organization, has updated its 2012 report, The Great Cost Shift. The initial report found that disinvestment in public higher education undermined the stability of the middle class by shifting costs to students and their families.

In its new report, The Great Cost Shift Continues, Demos has found that the trend of disinvestment continues unabated:

“In less than a generation, our nation’s higher education system has become a debt-for-diploma system — more than seven out of ten college seniors now borrow to pay for college and graduate with an average debt of $29,400.”

The report found all but one state, North Dakota, is spending less per student than they did before the recession, and more than half the states cut higher education funding by more than 25 percent.

Most universities responded to funding cuts with tuition increases. The average tuition at a four-year institution costs more than 15 percent of the median household income in 26 states, including Wisconsin.

Wisconsin ranks in the bottom half of states in several measures:

  • 39th, state funding for higher education per FTE State funding dropped 20.2% from 2007-08 to 2011-12 ($6,432 vs. $5,295).
  • 30th, average 4-year state tuition costs Tuition rose more than 17% from 2007-08 to 2011-12 ($6,677 vs. $7,851). Only 20 states have higher average 4-year tuition rates.
  • 29th, state higher education affordability Tuition at a 4-year state institution now takes 15.7% of the state’s median family income, compared to 12.3% five years ago.

Demos was founded in 2000 and focuses its work on three areas — achieving democracy through a guaranteed right to vote and reducing the amount of money in elections, the creation of a strong, diverse middle class through a sustainable economy, and the transformation of the public narrative to elevate the values of community and racial equity.

UW-Madison Student: The Overlooked Economic Value of an Art History Degree

Kelsey Mullane, a University of Wisconsin-Madison junior, writes in today’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that recent remarks by President Barack Obama and Senator Marco Rubio on the economic value of a humanities degree are evidence of the decay of the humanities:

Today, students are choosing to pursue degrees in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects rather than humanities degrees such as art history, history or philosophy. There are many possible explanations for the decline in students pursuing humanities degrees. However, I believe that the decline is occurring because undergraduate students possess a distorted perception of degree value that deems the humanities as economically inferior to STEM programs.

This perception of degree value is the product of increased criticism of the humanities following the economic recession. This criticism uses numeric data, such as starting salaries and post-graduation unemployment rates, to support the erroneous notion that the humanities teach impractical skills that hold little or no value in the current job market, thereby discouraging their study.

Mullane maintains that both STEM and humanities degrees offer economic value in today’s marketplace.

Rubenstein to World Economic Forum: Humanities Important for Future Job Success

David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle private equity firm, recently told world economic leaders gathering in Davos, Switzerland that students today need the critical thinking skills that are developed by the study of arts and humanities.

Rubenstein believes the emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), has come at the expense of the study of literature and philosophy and that a well-rounded education based in the humanities will lead to greater success in one’s career. He noted that many top executives received degrees in the humanities and that technical job skills can be learned later on the job.

Rubenstein had these words for students choosing their course of study: “You shouldn’t enter college worried about what you will do when you exit,” noting that “H=MC — Humanities equals more cash.”


Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment

Liberal Arts Graduates coverThe National Center for Higher Education Management Systems and the Association of American Colleges and Universities released a report yesterday that provides data on employment outcomes of liberal arts graduates.

The report, Liberal Arts Graduates and Employment: Setting the Record Straight, compared salary and employment data of liberal arts majors with that of science, math, and engineering graduates and professional and pre-professional graduates.

The findings come at a time when a traditional liberal arts education is seen by some as a luxury and perhaps not the best path to a well-paying job:

“Recent attacks on the liberal arts by ill-informed commentators and policy makers have painted a misleading picture of the value of the liberal arts to individuals and our communities. As the findings in this report demonstrate, majoring in a liberal arts field can and does lead to successful and remunerative careers in a wide array of professions.” — Carol Geary Schneider, president AACU.

The study found that employers want workers with both broad knowledge and specific skills — four out of five employers agree that all students should have broad knowledge in liberal arts and sciences. 

The report also found salary outcomes should be measured over an entire career. Earnings of liberal arts graduates, especially those who attain advanced degrees, can outpace professional and pre-professional graduates over several decades.

Coffee and Conversation with F. King Alexander

F. King Alexander

F. King Alexander

Louisiana State University President and Chancellor F. King Alexander will visit UW-Madison tomorrow, Friday, January 17, for a discussion of federal oversight in higher education, including President Obama’s College Scorecard.

Alexander was named to the newly-merged position of LSU Chancellor/ LSU System President last year. He received his Ph.D in higher education administration from UW-Madison and served as president of California State University-Long Beach before arriving in Louisiana. He also served as president of Murray State University in Kentucky.

This event, sponsored by WISCAPE, the Wisconsin Center for the Advancement of Postsecondary Education, will be held at 9 am in Room 290 Education. It is free and open to the public.


Kiplinger: UW-Madison 8th Best Value Among Public Universities

UW-Madison ranks eighth among public universities according to Kiplinger Magazine’s most recent rankings of colleges and universities, up two place from last year. The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill ranked first. Sixth-ranked University of Michigan was the only Big Ten school ranked higher than UW-Madison.

Kiplinger cites access to political jobs in the capitol and numerous tech start-ups as a reason why students choose to attend UW-Madison. The magazine also notes that the average cost for in-state students after need-based aid is applied fell by more than $800 this year.

Reminder! Congressman Mark Pocan on Campus Tuesday

Congressman Mark Pocan

Congressman Mark Pocan

Join Congressman Mark Pocan in a conversation about current events in Washington, the effects of Sequestration, and the changing landscape of public higher education at 11:30 am, Tuesday, November 26.

“PROFS is excited to welcome Congressman Pocan to UW-Madison. The university receives more than 30 percent of its budget from federal funding, and faculty are concerned about the future consequences of the federal sequestration,” said agronomy professor Bill Tracy, President of PROFS.

The event will be held in the Wisconsin Idea Room on the first floor of the Education Building, 1000 Bascom Mall. It is free and open to the public.

Congressman Pocan was elected to represent Wisconsin’s Second Congressional District in 2012 after serving 14 years in the Wisconsin Legislature. He currently serves on the House Budget Committee and was recently named to the House Education and Workforce Committee. Pocan graduated from UW-Madison with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1986.