College News

Board of Regents budget request promises long-awaited building renovations, campus investment

UW System Board of Regents recognize building renovations and repair, as well as university investments as the primary concerns of ongoing 2019-’21 budget deliberations. Without state funding, will UW campuses see change? 

Image By: Briana Tolksdorf

Limited available funds in the budget hinder progress for UW campuses — extended timelines slow building renovations, aid for students grows smaller, and quality faculty start the search for new positions.

Investment in universities and funding building renovations carried the Board of Regents discussion as they look to the future of the UW System Friday. 

The regents approved their 2019-’21 biennial budget last August, focusing on affordability and return of investment for the Wisconsin community. A large portion of the budget was dedicated to renovations, repair and replacement of facilities across the campuses. Much of the UW System's 62 million square foot building area was built in the latter-half of the 20th century with little upgrades since its establishment. 

Years of operation budget cuts have stifled workers and funds to fix the building concerns throughout the UW System. This budget request asked for $1.9 billion, which included 29 renovation and repair buildings projects. 

Associate Vice President for Capital Planning and Budget Alexandria Roe stated the necessity of keeping the repair and renovations as “high priority” projects. 

“One thing we do know is that the longer we wait to address deferred maintenance and other capital renewal needs, the more expensive they are and failure is more likely, which diverts existing resources, such as staff and funding, to resolve those emergencies,” Roe said.

Building renovations were not the only concern of UW System administrators. Chancellor Rebecca Blank voiced her desire to increase investment in UW-Madison through a set of six goals — boost graduation rates, promote accessibility, grow research, strengthen faculty and increase financial stability. 

“The key to a strong future for UW-Madison is investing in the right areas,” she said in an address to the Regents. “For too many years we were essentially standing still, if not moving backwards, because of reduced budgets.” 

While initiatives like Bucky’s Tuition Promise have helped one-fifth of incoming students, the university continues the search for accessibility for non-residential and international students that receive little aid. In order to boost the number of available scholarships and grants, the UW System needs to see in an increase in state funds. 

The tuition freeze limited the cost of resident tuition, making it more affordable for Wisconsin residents. However, it limits the ability for the university to grow in quality and research opportunity, as well as a progressive loss of revenue among the 13 campuses, according to the Associated Students of Madison’s 2019-’21 budget request. 

Opportunities for students do not have to be isolated to receiving substantial sums of money. 

Capacity-building initiatives — which seek investment in career outlets like health care, computer science and engineering — are key to igniting innovation and encouraging student success, according to the press release. 

UW System chancellors throughout the state presented initiatives that would allow students opportunities while on campus, as well as in their professional careers. While Blank sought investment in UW-Madison as a whole, she also aligned plans to specifically expand computer science, engineering, business and nursing. 

“UW System institutions are engaging in innovative and impactful work to meet the needs and address the challenges facing Wisconsin,” UW System President Ray Cross said. “This is the Wisconsin Idea in action.”

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