Blank, university faculty express optimism amid frustration at undergraduate budget forum

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank remains optimistic about budget cuts, ensuring undergraduates that student needs are a priority.

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Tension was evident in Union South’s Varsity Hall Monday during a public forum discussing the ramifications Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed UW System budget cuts could have on UW-Madison undergraduates.

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank said the proposed budget cuts pose threats to undergraduate programs and quality of education, and that making cuts to undergraduate programs is inevitable.

“There will almost certainly be layoffs, unfilled hires that we won’t be able to hire on and there will be some effects on you—there will be some classes that are not as available and service areas that will be reduced,” Blank said.

However, Blank said providing need-based financial aid is one aspect of the university budget cuts will not affect.

“I know that [financial aid] is important and we are keeping money to ensure we can meet our financial aid commitments,” Blank said.

Maintaining the needs of in-state students and establishing a diverse campus will remain priorities, according to Blank.

Blank said she has been discussing increasing out-of-state tuition, tuition for professional schools and out-of-state enrollment with the Board of Regents in order to bring in more revenue.

“We are raising professional school tuition and out-of-state tuition to fill this budget hole and subsidize in-state students, which, as a public university in Wisconsin, is our first public commitment,” Blank said.

Also discussed was UW-Madison’s impending status as a public authority, which many worry about because it would decrease student and faculty influence in decision making.

Dissent and frustration were apparent in the student-dominated audience especially when this was mentioned, with comments of disagreement eliciting responses from the panel.

“As the state dollars shrink, it’s important that we stop being micro-managed by the state and that we’re able to run our own show effectively, which will save us money as well,” Blank said.

Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Darrell Bazzell, who was present at the forum, said he supports the idea of autonomy because specifically appointed regents will have a better sense of what the university needs.

“[The Board of Regents] will have the greater sense of maintaining what is best for the university,” Bazzell said.

Blank, echoing this idea, expressed dedication to preserving the quality of undergraduate education in spite of budget cuts the university faces.

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