The UW System & Whitewater

It’s simply stating the obvious to report that Shrinking tuition revenue, growing expenses put UW campuses in potentially precarious position:

A gap is growing between how much money University of Wisconsin System campuses collect in tuition and how much they budget for costs directly tied to educating students, such as faculty pay and advising.

That raises serious questions about what could be ahead.

Could stretched budgets force cuts to academic programs or student services? How will campuses balance cash flow so they can deliver the same quality education if declining enrollments continue to shrink tuition coffers that cover teaching costs, personnel costs keep rising to compete for talent, and state funding is flat or cut again?

More financial pressure is coming, as four-year campuses absorb the UW’s two-year colleges into their operations.

RELATED: Merger would keep UW System’s two-year campuses afloat despite steep enrollment losses

Some of the tuition-dependent, two-year campuses were in such precarious financial shape before the merger that was formalized this month that they were in danger of having to close, according to UW officials.

These general challenges combine with others peculiar to Whitewater.

A few remarks:

  UW-Whitewater’s Northern Illinois Recruiting.  UW-Whitewater’s planned for years to expand its attractiveness to upscale northern Illinois residents, but budget pressures and the competing – very different – needs of Rock County two-year students will hamper a northern Illinois recruiting strategy.  Ambitious Illinois families will want a strong four-year program; two-year college students will have more immediate, workforce-ready needs.

This isn’t a criticism of either approach; it’s a recognition that UW-Whitewater cannot be all things to all people.

See  On Lake, McHenry, and Walworth Counties.

  Enrollment.  A decline in quality or reputation will not affect all students equally; predictably, those who have the means to go elsewhere (both academically and financially) will be the first to do so.  A decline of quality, should there be one, will hit enrollment of the school’s most sought-after cohort.  As that cohort leaves, the university will risk a downward spiral.

An increase in costs, however, would hit a different cohort – those least able to pay, least able to go elsewhere, but perhaps most hopeful of all that a university education might offer for their life prospects.

For now, both Walker and Democrats insist on freezing or cutting tuition.  (See Scott Walker would extend UW tuition freeze four more years, as Democrats back freezing or cutting tuition.)  Price controls have brought us, in part, to the UW System’s current predicament.  Extending the same won’t improve prospects.

  Athletics.  Years ago, athletics were supposed to be the ticket to UW-Whitewater’s rise.  Much as I support athletic accomplishment, this was always a false hope: (1) a university is built of the many, not the athletic few, (2) if UW-Whitewater wants to be a competitive college those many need competitive classes more than competitive athletics, (3) the nature of Division III athletics always meant that other Wisconsin programs would be able to match each other over time, (4) coaching is hard, competing is hard, and administrators or fans who think one simply pushes a button – or spends money – to win don’t understand the intricacies of competition.

Former chancellor Dick Telfer absurdly presided over a school that doled out championship rings to non-athletes as trinkets, and the current chancellor Beverly Kopper once obtusely contended that Telfer’s only weakness was not having enough fingers to wear all his championship rings.

Those weren’t Telfer’s rings, and those weren’t his only weaknesses. 

See, At UW-Whitewater, Far More Championship Rings Than Actual Athletes & Coaches and The Former Chancellor’s Only Weakness.

In any event, despite the legitimate importance of athletics, an emphasis there was never going to be enough to sustain UW-Whitewater.

  Market Forces.  As local landlords compete for students in a market with more upscale renters and also more cost-conscious ones, expect incumbent landlords to make any claim, and use any means, to prevent new entrants to the market: regulations, cultural fears of student encroachment, just about any lever they can find to prevent competition.

These men never believed in free markets; they’re self-interested men who want to rig markets through regulations, bluster, and boosterism to get the deals they want while inhibiting others’ success.  They have a small cadre of toadies & flunkies walking around with them, spouting the incumbents’ lines.

Indeed, they’d gladly take a position against rental properties if it would benefit their existing rental stock.

They’re like carnivores who argue for vegetarianism so that they can enjoy for themselves whatever meat is left.

All of this should be obvious, all of it.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments