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Friday, March 01, 2024
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UW reveals $32 million workforce development proposal in bid to restore budget cuts

It is uncertain whether the funding will be approved by the Legislature’s budget-writing committee after Assembly Speaker Robin Vos’ repeated attempts to eliminate DEI efforts.

The University of Wisconsin System unveiled a new $32 million plan Monday to expand training in engineering, nursing, data scientists and business, the latest development in the university’s attempt to reclaim Republican-imposed budget cuts. 

The initiative would develop workforce needs and calls for UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee to receive $2.5 million each. The remaining 11 universities would receive $1 million each annually for the biennium, according to the statement

“This plan is exactly what the Legislature is looking for — a concentrated emphasis on adding more graduates to the workforce in key areas,” UW System President Jay Rothman said in the press release.

If fully implemented, the program would add more than 9,300 graduates to the four areas in a five-year period. 

But securing the funding will be tedious. 

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has made clear since May that Republicans will withhold $32 million from UW System until it eliminates its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. 

Vos told reporters in October he also wants future legislative oversight of UW System positions and blocked a 6% pay raise over the next two years for UW System employees.

“I would love to outlaw DEI and to be as aggressive as possibly can be,” Vos said during the press conference.

Rothman reaffirmed the necessity of DEI programs, in a statement to reporters Monday, according to Wisconsin Public Radio

“We need to be an inclusive and welcoming environment," Rothman said. "Whether that be for underrepresented groups, whether that be for veterans, disabled students, first-generation students, students of different religious faiths, students of different political ideologies. That’s what we are focused on."

Rothman will present the UW System’s plan Thursday to the Board of Regents. He will deliver the proposal to the Legislature’s budget-writing committee for members to vote on whether or not the UW System will receive the funding at a later date, according to the statement

“The Universities of Wisconsin have the capacity to add thousands of graduates to the workforce in critical areas, and I know we’ll be responsible stewards of this funding when it is released by the legislature,” Rothman said. 

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Ava Menkes

Ava Menkes is the state news editor at The Daily Cardinal. She has covered multiple stories about Wisconsin politics and written in-depth about nurses unions and youth voter turnout. Follow her on Twitter at @AvaMenkes.

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