Flexibility Main Topic of Forum

pruitt-martinMore than 60 faculty, staff and students attended yesterday’s forum on the funding of public higher education. PROFS was pleased to welcome Chancellor Biddy Martin, Regent President Chuck Pruitt, and business leader Kathi Seifert and encouraged them to share their ideas about how UW-Madison can best face the economic challenges ahead.

Chancellor Martin began the conversation by asking what the state needs from UW-Madison. First, the state needs more graduates who can face a 21st century economy. Second, the state needs more jobs. And third, the state needs a talent magnet. With greater flexibility — in purchasing, construction, tuition, and compensation — the university will be best positioned to provide the state what it needs to become more prosperous.

Regent Pruitt related how he’s often asked by citizens throughout the state why the university system doesn’t behave more like a business. He tells them that  state regulations often hamper efforts to become more efficient and businesslike. Pruitt is working with former Regent president Jay Smith to promote a new compact with the state, one that encourages an intelligent conversation with legislative and gubernatorial candidates and asks them about their willingness to support the university.

Those comments were echoed by Fox Valley business-leader Kathi Seifert. She emphasized communication between legislative leaders, the business community and the university.

Martin also used the forum as an opportunity to reassure faculty and students that flexibility does not mean that tuition will immediately rise, and Pruitt said that flexibility does not mean that the university no longer needs support from the state. On the contrary, Pruitt said that the university should not continue to be last in line for state support, behind K-12 education, corrections and health care. The goal is not to create a private university system through neglect.

Todd Finkelmeyer of The Capital Times has more details on his Campus Connections blog.