BA Board Member Katharine Lyall: It’s not too late to invest in UW-Madison, System
This OpEd appeared in many newspapers throughout the state of Wisconsin:
The University of Wisconsin-Madison recently slid two spots in the national rankings for total research funding. The shift is a troubling indicator for our state’s economic future. While this prestigious flagship university is certainly capable of a rebound, these are signs of things to come — and no one should be surprised.
The university has four major funding sources: federal research funding (for which faculty must compete with other major universities nationally), tuition, state support, and private donations and gifts. Resident tuition has been frozen for four years, and state and federal support has been steadily reduced over the last decade. Private donations and gifts cover only part of the growing gap.
Perennial cuts to major funding sources are never a positive formula for sustainable growth, and UW-Madison is experiencing this firsthand. State funds go directly toward hiring faculty who teach and compete for federal research funding. The relationship is direct and the impact of past cuts is real. Beyond the slide in national research rankings, 15 departments at UW-Madison have fallen out of top 25 national rankings in the last four years, reflecting the loss of faculty in developing industries like video gaming and essential professions like nursing and teacher training. These signs do not bode well for our state and communities unless we change direction.
Universities require systematic, predictable investments that keep pace with inflation. If UW-Madison were a private enterprise, it would be one of Wisconsin’s top Fortune 500 companies, bringing more than $1 billion into the state. We cannot afford to lose this engine of growth and skills development. UW-Madison can return to its former status with a reasonable state investment this budget cycle, a thaw in the tuition freeze, and specific investments in high-demand research areas.
University of Wisconsin System