University of Wisconsin colleges and UW-Extension would both be exempt from proposed UW System budget cuts under separate measures backed by a state legislator from Reedsburg.
Rep. Ed Brooks and another lawmaker introduced motions April 23 to shield UW Colleges and UW-Extension from cuts that could result from Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal to slash $300 million from the UW System budget.
“We’re kind of putting a stake in the ground and saying that you can cut UW X number of dollars, but we want to hold harmless two-year campuses and UW-Extension,” Brooks said.
Brooks, R-Reedsburg, introduced the motion to exempt UW-Extension from possible system-wide cuts. Rep. Romaine Quinn, R-Rice Lake, introduced a similar motion to protect the system’s two-year colleges.
The two lawmakers announced the moves jointly in a collaboration that reflects the rural character of both men’s districts.
Brooks represents the 50th Assembly District, which includes all of Juneau County and parts of Sauk, Richland, Monroe and Vernon counties, including Reedsburg. Romaine’s district includes portions of five sparsely populated counties northwest of Eau Claire.
The 50th Assembly District includes one two-year campus — the University of Wisconsin-Richland in Richland Center. “And Boo U is close by and we’ve got a lot of people who go over there,” Brooks said.
“Boo U” is the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County. The campuses in Baraboo and Richland Center are among a total of 13 two-year colleges in the UW System.
“Those two institutions do not have a lot of resources to move around, whereas if you get to a four-year campus or a research campus like UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison, they have more opportunities to save money or to shift dollars,” Brooks said.
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The UW System colleges provide two-year associate degrees, but are also economical stepping stones for many students seeking four-year bachelor’s degrees.
“If you can go two years and stay at home you can take the cost of board off the table,” Brooks said. “You just have to worry about tuition and a little bit of transportation.”
UW-Extension operates from offices in each of the state’s 72 counties to provide all residents access to university resources and research as a part of the “Wisconsin Idea.”
Among other things, UW-Extension is responsible for the state’s public radio and public television networks.
Chancellor Cathy Sandeen, who oversees both UW Colleges and UW-Extension, responded to the motions by Brooks and Quinn with a news release in which she said she was pleased to see the “unique roles” of the institutions acknowledged.
“Tuition and fees for UW Colleges students are the lowest in the UW System at an average of $5,100 for in-state students,” Sandeen said. “At UW-Extension, most programs for individuals, families, businesses and communities are free. In both cases, partnerships with city or county governments work to the benefit of all institutions involved to leverage resources.”
Members of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, who are now reworking the 2015-17 budget proposed by Walker in February, have said the outcome of some budget measures depend on revised state revenue estimates due in early May.
Brooks predicted the motions would be among the last tackled by the Joint Committee on Finance and declined to offer a prediction about the outcome.
“I’ve farmed enough years to know predictions make you feel good but at the end of the year it’s what you can put in the bin,” Brooks said.