Report: Reductions in higher ed funding would hurt state’s economy

Wisconsin Technology Council makes education recommendations

Reductions in public funding for higher education will negatively impact Wisconsin’s economy, according to a report released today by the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The WTC is a board of business, technology, investment and education leaders. Its 28-page report, titled “The Value of Higher Education to Wisconsin’s Economy,” covers the impact of Wisconsin’s public and private universities on the state’s workforce and economic growth.

Developed over nine months, the report concludes Wisconsin “relies on colleges and universities for talent, technology transfer and business development in the communities those institutions serve.”

“The research and development dollars spent in Wisconsin are significant and they have a direct impact on supply chain in Wisconsin,” said Tom Still, president of the Wisconsin Technology Council.

The report presents six guiding factors that honor Wisconsin’s existing economic assets:

  • Recognize fundamental differences between the UW System’s doctoral-granting campuses and its four-year institutions.
  • Recognize the critical importance of talent development and attraction for the future of all sectors in the Wisconsin economy.
  • Attract and retain the best faculty and researchers at all of Wisconsin’s higher education institutions.
  • Keep our universities affordable and accessible for all residents who want to get a college education in Wisconsin.
  • Improve the transfer of knowledge and ideas into a prosperous Wisconsin economy.
  • Be aware of the competitive world around us.

Based on those factors, the Tech Council makes seven recommendations:

  • In making funding and programming choices, policymakers should compare the University of Wisconsin-Madison with its national peers and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with its peer institutions.
  • Examine ways to speed time to graduation, which varies greatly within the UW System. Strategies include improving portability of credits, accelerating programs that help high-school students get a “head start” on college, and embracing best practices at Wisconsin’s private colleges and universities.
  • Support faculty tenure policies developed by the UW Board of Regents and its Tenure Policy study group.
  • Improve the efficiency of campus interactions with the business community.
  • Encourage the UW Foundation and similar foundations with ties to the UW to investigate “mission investing” as a part of their portfolio management strategies.
  • Ensure that “front door” business portals such as the UW-Madison Office of Corporate Relations exist on each of the four-year campuses.
  • Appoint a blue ribbon commission to consider questions related to UW System general purpose revenue funding; administrative flexibility; campus consolidation; tuition freezes; supporting a “second” research university; supporting research and technology transfer on non-doctoral campuses, and how to get the most out of two-year campuses that make up the separate Wisconsin Technical College System and the UW System’s two-year centers.

“The future of businesses in southeastern Wisconsin is directly tied to having a more vigorous higher ed system,” Still said.

He also believes businesses in Wisconsin should not view higher education as an expense, but rather, as an investment.

However, he said businesses should be concerned about the decrease in access to higher education in Wisconsin because it produces fewer people who are ready for the workforce.

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Maredithe has covered retail, restaurants, entertainment and tourism since 2018. Her duties as associate editor include copy editing, page proofing and managing work flow. Meyer earned a degree in journalism from Marquette University and still enjoys attending men’s basketball games to cheer on the Golden Eagles. Also in her free time, Meyer coaches high school field hockey and loves trying out new restaurants in Milwaukee.

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