University of Wisconsin System President Raymond Cross outlined goals for his presidency, such as tackling student debt and ensuring financial transparency, at a news conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Friday.
The Board of Regents chose Cross as the UW System’s seventh president Jan. 9 with a unanimous vote.
“To be entrusted with serving as president of one of the country’s most respected university systems is truly an honor,” Cross said.
Cross emphasized his role as president will not be a job he will do alone but rather with the help of the Board of Regents, the faculty of UW institutions, Wisconsin legislature, students and the various communities of Wisconsin.
“Looking to the future starts right now,” Cross said. “I want to build a better relationship, a stronger relationship at the core of my administration.”
He noted his first task will be communicating with state legislators, joking he may need to take his sleeping bag with him to the Capitol.
Of the many challenges Cross said he plans on facing in his new role, the one that he deemed most important is that of student debt.
“How do we help students and their families faced with high cost and growing cost of higher education?” Cross asked.
Cross said he plans on focusing his attention on finding a way to lower both the tuition for students and the debt students face, while working to increase financial aid available at the state and federal level.
University of Wisconsin Associated Students of Madison Chair David Gardner said in a statement Thursday he looks forward to working alongside Cross on these issues, as student debt is something that affects just over half of UW-Madison students.
“Student debt and student fee control are both issues that are concerning across the system, and President Cross will play a key role in addressing these issues, and in finding solutions,” Gardner said in the statement.
Gov. Scott Walker expressed his own excitement for the future with the new UW System president in a statement released Thursday.
“I have really enjoyed working with Ray in his current role as chancellor of University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension,” Walker said in the statement. “Ray’s leadership and collaboration skills will help improve the excellence of higher education in Wisconsin.”
Cross focused on the idea of “listening in order to lead” during the conference and plans on holding listening sessions in the near future to hear what the Wisconsin community feels is important in regards to the UW System.
“I know my efforts to lead this great institution will be seen in every corner of the state and in every city town or village in between,” Cross said.
Cross touched on some of the challenges he would like to tackle right away, including the rising price of higher education and the transparency of the way in which the system handles money.
“You shouldn’t have to be a CPA to understand our system’s finances,” Cross said.
Board of Regents President Michael Falbo introduced Cross not only to the press conference, but also to his new position with the system.
“We’re delighted that Chancellor Cross has agreed to take on these new challenges and to work with us to make this university system even better and more responsive to the needs of Wisconsin citizens,” Falbo said.
Falbo credited Cross’s work as chancellor of University of Wisconsin Colleges and University of Wisconsin-Extension as the “inside expertise” sought after in order to understand the system.
“We believe Ray has what it takes to help us continue building the framework in which UW institutions can collaborate, differentiate and thrive,” Falbo said.
University of Wisconsin-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank also showed her support for Cross in a statement Thursday.
"I am confident that Ray has the skills and the drive to succeed in his approach,” Blank said. “He understands UW-Madison, along with the diverse group of institutions he will manage.”