UW-Whitewater’s Budgetary Challenges Require a Studied Approach

Whitewater is a college town. If a college town, then a college: the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. I’ve written about the university now and again. A simple summary of my views would be that Whitewater benefits from having a university, but that the school’s leaders (notably Telfer and Kopper) have failed both individuals and the community. Of UW-Whitewater’s current (and relatively new) chancellor, Dr. Dwight Watson, I’ve written less, but critically where necessary.

UW-Whitewater now faces significant budget shortfalls, as do other UW System schools. What the university confronts did not begin overnight. Both the city and the university have had a difficult dozen years. For the city: the Great Recession, a drug crisis, economic stagnation with low household incomes, a pandemic mismanaged nationally, and in consequence of that mismanagement a Pandemic Recession. For the university, all these local challenges, with funding limits, tuition price controls, their own administrative failures, and a declining demographic among typical college-aged students.

This has been no easy time for the city or the campus.

None of these challenges, however, will be settled satisfactorily though the publication of dueling press releases. To see these issues that way, or to present them that way, is no more than a superficial glance in the direction of deep wounds.

A better perspective comes from better information. Over at the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the recently published Falling Behind? The state of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges addresses the plight of the UW System thoroughly and seriously. One might not agree with all of the WPF’s prescriptions, but it’s a sound (and timely) starting point. (One key point of agreement: a tuition price freeze, like price controls generally, has been a bad idea.)

There’s not a lot of good policy analysis in Wisconsin, to be blunt, but fortunately the Wisconsin Policy Forum is an exception to that unfortunate situation. Even where one disagrees, one can be – and should be – appreciative of diligent work.

The Falling Behind? The state of Wisconsin’s public universities and colleges analysis comes in a video summary, an executive summary, and a full report.

Watching and reading all three offers a sensible foundation for further discussion.

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1 year ago

Good you see this as a complex issue that goes beyond the Covid-19. There are long term problems that have caught up with us. The mood on campus is as bad as I can remember. Sometimes you think it’s hit bottom but no there’s worse. We are just trudging along. By the way, you have described your own outlook accurately, “Whitewater benefits from having a university, but that the school’s leaders (notably Telfer and Kopper) have failed both individuals and the community”. There’s more to it than that but it’s a reminder that you can be “pro-university” but “administration-skeptical”. I think this describes the approach you’ve taken.