The University of Wisconsin System has not yet crunched the numbers on its plan to reorganize state college campuses, according to spokeswoman Stephanie Marquis.
Asked for a copy of the projection of the fiscal impact of the plan on Thursday, Marquis replied that no cost savings analysis had yet been done.
“We have not developed a cost savings estimate at this point because the proposal still needs to go before the Board of Regents in November to get approval to proceed with implementation planning,” Marquis said in a message. “As we integrate the campuses and further standardize and regionalize administrative operations and services, we expect there to be long-term savings because we will be using resources more efficiently.”
The plan UW System President Ray Cross made public on Wednesday calls for merging the system’s 13 two-year colleges with seven nearby four-year universities.
The proposed pairings are shown on this map.
UW-Extension Cooperative could be folded into UW-Madison. Some other Extension functions, including the state public television and radio networks, and continuing education, would be transferred to UW System Administration.
Changes would take effect on July 1, 2018.
Initial reaction to the plan was swift and mixed, but in addition to parsing the effectiveness of the plan, some critics questioned the lack of information available on such a significant reorganization proposed for approval in four weeks.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Nov. 9 in Madison.
Others criticized the fact that faculty, staff and students were not included in the process of stating the problem confronting the system and generating ways to address it.
Noel Radomski, managing director at the WISCAPE education policy think tank at UW-Madison, called the timetable for the proposal a “folly.”
“UW campus administrators, faculty, academic staff, university staff, students, civic business leaders, and the fourth estate were not informed of the proposal to restructure the UW System until they read the October 11 press release announcing it,” Radomski wrote Friday in a blog that offers constructive comments and criticism of the proposal.
Radomski noted the web page set up to take questions, but said that is not enough.
Cross and the Board of Regents should also convene a series of open community hearings with Q&A sessions across the state, he argued.
“In addition, they should conduct an informational session at a UW System Board of Regents meeting before the board votes on the proposal," Radomski said.
That would require setting a later date for approval, he said.
UW-Madison geography professor Kris Olds raised a basic question on Twitter:
Olds also posted a planning process grid that included calls for generating, evaluating and selecting options at four stages of plan development from process planning and substantive planning, through implementation and operations.
As the reason for reorganization, Cross cited the plummeting enrollment at UW Colleges, 32 percent over the 13 campuses between 2010 and 2017, which he attributed to changes demographics in the state. The strategy, he said, is to “leverage” the strength of the system’s four-year institutions to keep the two-year campuses open.
“Our goal is to expand access and provide more educational opportunities for more students, while ensuring our faculty are appropriately organized and supported. We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for students, faculty, and staff,” Cross said
He acknowledged that the reorganizations will require staff cuts, but told media that the magnitude and specifics of job cuts were not yet known.
UW System workers, however, were informed at a series of meetings this week that they would be employed for two more years.
Cathy Sandeen, chancellor for UW Colleges and Extension, expressed her support for the reorganization in the system's news release. “The dramatic demographic declines in this state are undeniable and we have been working hard to ensure the future viability and sustainability of our small campuses. I am optimistic about the potential of this new structure to keep student access and student success at the forefront,” she said.
The reorganization plan drew immediate praise from Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, a member of the powerful Joint Finance Committee.
Not so fast, tweeted the American Association of University Professors branch at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, which would be joined with two-year schools UW-Washington County and UW-Waukesha.
UW System student representatives, who come from all the campuses, convened an emergency conference call where they expressed frustration with all the unanswered questions – from whether their instructors will stay on the job to how student fees might be affected, and what will happen to athletics programs at two-year schools, the Daily Cardinal reported.
Coltan Schoenike, public relations specialist for UW-Stout’s student government, expressed widely held skepticism at the assurances from Cross of a smooth transition for all.
“We have been so concerned with how little consultation there has been with students during this,” Schoenike said. “Obviously people are going to the two-year schools for very specific and intentional reasons … this could eliminate a lot of the accessibility.”
Michael Newman, chair of Journalism, Advertising and Media Studies at UW-Milwaukee also questioned the lack of participation by stakeholders in developing the plan – whether the changes are a good idea or not.
Further comment on the handling of the proposal was offered by Professor Sara Goldrick-Rab a former education policy analyst at UW-Madison who is now at Temple University in Philadelphia.