Several prominent Milwaukee-area business leaders are backing a new nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s statewide economic impact, ending the freeze on its tuition, and stemming the university’s drop in national rankings.
The effort, called Badgers United
, officially announced its launch this week.
Among its board of directors members are Curt Culver, former CEO of MGIC Investment Corp; Ted Kellner, founder of Fiduciary Management Inc.; Peter Kies, managing director of Robert W. Baird & Co.; Cory Nettles, founder and managing director of Generation Growth Capital; and Bud Selig, former Milwaukee Brewers owner and Major League Baseball commissioner; along with other prominent business leaders from other parts of the state.
The organization got its start in October 2018, when a group of business leaders and citizens convened around the need to “have a conversation about the positive impact UW-Madison has across the state” and the factors that hamper its impact, said Amber Schroeder, executive director of Badgers United. The organization filed for 501(c)3 status in late November, she said.
The top priority for the group, Schroeder said, is raising tuition for in-state undergraduate students, which has remained frozen since 2013. She noted the university ranks 10th among the 14 Big Ten conference schools for its tuition rates.
“We’re proud that (UW-Madison) offers the Tuition Promise to those who can’t afford tuition, but we feel that, for those who can afford it, they should pay market rate,” Schroeder said.
Badgers United will also advocate for increased state funding for the university, saying a decline in funding has partially contributed to its slide in recent national rankings. On its website, the group notes that UW-Madison dropped from the nation’s top five universities for research spending in 2015, and fell off U.S. News & World Report’s Best Public Colleges' top 10 list in 2017.
“We certainly will be talking about the drop in rankings the university has been experiencing and how that has negative consequences for the state,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said the effort is bolstered by the big names who are behind it.
“We’re really excited that some of the state’s largest business leaders see the value UW-Madison provides and want to drive the conversation statewide about how it is an economic generator,” she said.
One of the organization’s main messages, Schroeder said, is stressing UW–Madison’s role in generating a more than $15 billion annual economic impact for the state.
“It’s not just a Madison institution; it’s a statewide institution,” she said. “It’s the flagship university in our state and we need to make sure that’s better understood.”