The University of Wisconsin System leadership praised Gov. Tony Evers 2021-2023 budget proposed last week, as it nearly doubled the already-ambitious initial request to help UW pull out of its financial deficit.
The budget proposes $190 million in new funding for the UW-Madison System, including $20 million in each fiscal year to go towards student challenges faced by the pandemic, and $50 million towards aiding the deficit left by the tuition freeze, which is currently in its eighth year.
“Governor Evers’ budget for the UW System will allow us to tackle Wisconsin’s most pressing challenges,” interim UW System President Tommy Thompson said in a statement. “Expanding online education to meet market demands, tackling prison recidivism to save taxpayer money, leveraging our freshwater resources for economic and environmental gain, expanding opportunity for our neediest students.”
UW-Madison alone is currently facing nearly $320 million in pandemic-related losses, however Chancellor Rebecca Blank said she believes the “financial disaster” can be averted in two years if the UW System got its initial budget request.
“Governor Evers’ capital budget plan includes a major investment in higher education infrastructure that is critical for the future of Wisconsin,” Blank said in a release.
As part of his capital budget released Monday, Evers also recommended about $1 billion for building projects within the UW System. At the Madison campus, building projects would include Music Hall restoration, a new engineering facility, utilities renovation on Engineering Drive and a new College of Letters and Science building that relates to the university’s goal of demolishing the Mosse Humanities Building.
“We desperately need a modern facility to house world-class departments where our students can hone critical skills in classrooms that enable truly interactive and collaborative learning that the [Humanities] building cannot provide,” Dean of the College of Letters and Science Eric Wilcots said in a release. “By supporting this new academic facility for the College of Letters & Science, the state is investing wisely in a brighter future and a vibrant workforce.”
The addition of a new engineering facility would allow the College of Engineering to accept more than their quota of around 1,500 students each year. If the addition of the building comes to fruition under the Evers budget, the college would see an increase of nearly 22% more students compared to current levels.
“A new engineering building will provide additional modern space to greatly increase our enrollment, recruit top professors, and provide more high-potential engineering graduates to industry,” Grainger Dean of the College of Engineering Ian Robertson said.
However, it’s still unclear how much of Evers’ proposed budget will make it through the legislature and back to his desk. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said he assumed GOP lawmakers would throw out Evers’ proposal and start from scratch in a press conference shortly after Evers’ budget proposal.