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Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Dempsey Hall at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, photographed Nov. 8, 2022.

UW-Oshkosh proposes academic restructuring plans to confront budget struggles

UW-Oshkosh Provost Edwin Martini released new restructuring plans to reduce the number of colleges in lieu of $18 million budget deficits.

University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Provost Edwin Martini released new academic restructuring plans on Feb. 13 that would reduce the university’s budget deficit by condensing the number of colleges. 

The proposed plans, which would take effect by Jan. 25, 2025, come after stagnant state financial support in Wisconsin’s latest two-year state budget and 200 staff layoffs at the university.

“We have been living for some time with the significant headwinds of demographic, enrollment and economic pressures,” Martini said in an email to The Daily Cardinal. “This plan offers a way forward that allows UWO to take greater control over its future.”

The plan’s main goals focus on student-centered career pathways, centering research prowess and honing in on student engagement and success.

Major budget deficits have taken a toll on students and faculty, forcing them to be “reactive” rather than “proactive” with financial decisions, according to Michael Ford, Director of the Masters of Public Administration program at UW-Oshkosh. 

UW-Oshkosh currently operates the College of Business, the College of Education and Human Services, the College of Letters and Science (COLS) and the College of Nursing as well as an honors college. Current structures mean COLS is larger than the other three colleges combined, with 226 tenured faculty compared to 90 tenured faculty across the three other colleges. 

Through a collaborative process that included workshops, open houses and surveys, Models A and B were developed by a team of nearly 40 faculty, staff, administrators and students, according to Martini. 

Model A creates three colleges and six schools, and it would save $1.75 million, according to analysis by UW-Oshkosh. The three colleges are the College of Business, Media and Communication; the College of Culture, Society and Education and the College of Nursing, Health Professions and STEM.

The six schools under the plan would be: 

  • Business
  • Culture and Society 
  • STEM 
  • Media, Communication and Arts 
  • Education 
  • Nursing and Health Professions

According to the rationale report, Model A would help students transition between related disciplines and enable coordination between similar curriculums.

Model B creates three colleges and eight schools, and it is estimated to save $1.5 million. The three colleges are the College of Business, Science & Technology; the College of Culture, Society & Education and the College of Nursing & Health Professions. UW-Oshkosh’s nursing program would still be contained in its own dedicated college.

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The eight schools under this plan would be: 

  • Business 
  • Culture and Society
  • Public Administration & Sustainability 
  • STEM 
  • Education 
  • Media, Communication and Arts 
  • Health Professions
  • Nursing

Model B is more similar to UW-Oshkosh’s current structure and balances student headcounts between colleges and schools better than Model A, according to its rationale report

“Until they're actually implemented, on paper they don't look all that different,” Ford said.

Ford said he hopes to solve the “disconnect between revenues and expenditures.” Better allocating funds to programs which pique student interest will improve UW-Oshkosh, he added. 

Yet, Ford said improvement would also lie in more collaboration between administration and academics. He cited having more academic faculty on administrative boards and greater administrative transparency as ways to improve that relationship. 

“There’s a tendency to blame one another [for budget deficits] when we’re intertwined,” Ford said.

Despite setbacks, he was optimistic for the future. 

“I think we’re going to get there.”

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Mary Bosch

Mary Bosch is the photo editor for The Daily Cardinal and a first year journalism student. She has covered multiple stories about university sustainability efforts, and has written for state and city news. Follow her on twitter: @Mary_Bosch6

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