Alumni group slams plan that would benefit other campuses at expense of UW-Madison

Photo by Michelle Stocker, The Capital Times

The Badger Advocates alumni lobbying group is slamming a plan that would make UW-Madison lose out on some of the state funding going toward the UW System in the next budget.

The regents today will vote on the UW System’s $6.2 billion operating budget for the 2017-18 year, including a $37.8 million increase in GPR. The system is getting $25 million of that because a lapse from the 2015-17 biennial budget is going away.

But UW System leaders want to stray from the usual formula when distributing the $25 million to campuses.

Under their plan, UW-Madison would get $2.9 million of those funds, down from $9.4 million under the typical formula. The $6.5 million difference would instead go to other UW campuses, with UW-Milwaukee and UW-Whitewater benefiting the most.

Badger Advocates Executive Director Matt Kussow called the plan a “short-sighted decision that punishes success and fosters an environment which pits member campuses against each other.”

“UW-Madison alumni across the nation should be outraged at this development,” he said. “I fear this is just the beginning of efforts to erode UW’s position as the System’s flagship university.”

The state hasn’t yet wrapped up its biennial budget, so the system used the provisions that the Joint Finance Committee approved in May to develop its operating budget. It will then incorporate any further changes that could pass the Legislature.

UW-Milwaukee would get the largest share of funding under the UW budget plan. The campus would get about $5.2 million of the funds, about $1.7 million more than it would typically get. UW-Whitewater would get $1 million more than the usual formula, while other campuses would see boosts of at least $200,000 more.

UW System spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis called it a “one-time distribution” of the $25 million in funding.

“We want all our institutions to be strong, and this lapse funding will help support our campuses,” she said.

Under the motion Joint Finance approved in May, UW-Madison would get several funding boosts for specific programs, such as $1.5 million each year for the Thompson Center on Public Leadership and increases in funding for its Carbone Cancer Center and a rural physician residency program.

But the campus is also raising concerns over how the $25 million from the lapse would be allocated.

UW-Madison spokesman John Lucas said Chancellor Rebecca Blank recognizes other campuses face financial difficulties and has said she’s “willing to share some portion of its allocation” because of that.

“But a redirection of this size is deeply concerning and will make it even more difficult for the campus to make the kinds of investments needed to maintain its excellence,” he said.

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