Education’s critical role in the Wisconsin Economy

    The University of Wisconsin System has held on to the concept of The Wisconsin Idea since 1904, when UW President Charles Van Hise decreed he “would not be content unless the benefits of the University reached every home in the state.”

    Today, institutions throughout the state have adopted the mission of the Wisconsin Idea. While the definition has evolved, the heart of the decree remains – for institutions to influence the communities they occupy, and offer resources, knowledge and expertise to help the community and the state thrive in the global economy.

    “The key to our future is not to be independent, isolated institutions,” said Ray Cross, president of the University of Wisconsin System. “We must be engaged collaborators that build and maintain partnerships. We must strategically share our plans and talk freely for the betterment of the state as a whole.”

    Schools throughout the state have established working relationships with each other and with businesses in their communities.

    “Businesses can take advantage of cost-effective resources and the expertise available on campuses throughout the state, and in the process, our colleges and universities can learn exactly what our businesses need from their future workforce,” said Rolf Wegenke, president of the Wisconsin Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.

    Relationships like these are a win for business, a win for students and a win for the state economy.

    “Our graduates are more prepared for the workforce,” Wegenke said. “They are more hirable, and they hit the ground running.”

    The University of Wisconsin-Madison alone has formed more than 11,000 partnerships with businesses in the area for work collaborations or internship opportunities for its students, and according to Madison-based NorthStar Economics, Inc., has an economic impact of $12.4 billion on the state.

    Similar numbers exist throughout the UW Wisconsin system and the state’s independent colleges and universities.

    Wisconsin long ago realized the value of higher education, Cross said.

    Wisconsin’s love for higher education extends beyond the schools in the UW System to the state’s private institutions, the states two-year institutions and the state’s technical colleges.

    “We have all the pieces here,” Cross said. “All these pieces underlay the value system we express in the Wisconsin Idea. Other states try to emulate what we have, but it’s not a part of their ethos. Here, it’s embedded in our DNA. It’s in the historical foundation. We’re not just the University of Wisconsin. We’re the University for Wisconsin. It’s more than just words to us.”

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