College News

UW-Milwaukee reached a balanced budget, but at a cost

UW-Milwaukee has balanced their budget for the first time since 2012, but has lost 15 percent of their faculty along the way.

Image By: Magnus Manske

UW-Milwaukee balanced its budget at the cost of trimming down faculty and adjusting academic programs.

The university has lost nearly 15 percent of its faculty since Fall 2014. A hiring freeze is in place as the campus did not replace retired faculty but has hired some new faculty members to substitute those who have left. Thus, there are more lower-paid affiliate faculty who teach classes but do not perform research.

The university is facing another quandary as its student enrollment has dropped nearly 18.5 percent over the last eight years. The School of Education, which fell 34 percent, and Peck School of Arts, which has had a decline of 26 percent, suffered the most severe student enrollment decrease.

When deciding whether to fill vacant positions to manage faculty numbers, the university is judiciously considering various factors, including student enrollment in each academic area and higher-demand majors that need more faculty to grow.

With the fiscal year ending in July 2016, the university suffered a loss of $40 million in budget funds and tuition costs. The cost of instruction and faculty wages can be covered by tuition revenue and state funding.

According to Vice Chancellor Robin Van Harpen, UW-Milwaukee has been facing the pinch of dwindling tuition revenue since 2013, as it has lost about $39 million in tuition revenue. The university traced its fiscal problems in large part to a high school graduates decline since 2010, due to demographic shifts.

UW-Milwaukee’s budget uncertainty was also fueled by the $300 million state budget cut within the UW System in 2015.

The student enrollment rate in UW-Stevens Point has also decreased by 22 percent over the last eight years. Following financial challenges due to the tuition freeze and lack of surplus funds, the university is at risk of 60-70 faculty job losses.

UW-Milwaukee truncated its offerings on current major courses and increased faculty members on higher-demand majors. Students can still earn a degree in current departmental majors but face limited options on upper-level courses in education through the campus.

"We have done everything we can to find efficiencies and minimize direct impact on students,” Van Harpen told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We have always run our university very leanly, and we tightened up even more during this time.”

According to Scott Emmons, the dean of the Peck School of Arts, since the economy is recovering, enrollment is beginning to beef up. It is also due to the fact that parents are more accepting of their children majoring in music and arts.

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