The Chronicle of Higher Education has just published a piece entitled Needed: a National Strategy to Preserve Public Research Universities that should be mandatory reading for those concerned about the future of UW-Madison. Unfortunately, we cannot legally reprint the entire article here, and access is for subscribers only (and, rumor has it, those accessing via the library system from a UW account). The following key quotes, however, summarize the problem:
Today, however, the state side of the partnership is failing. State support of public universities, on a per student basis, has been declining for over two decades. Even before the current economic crisis, it was at the lowest level in 25 years. As the global recession has deepened, lower tax revenues have driven state after state to further reduce appropriations, with cuts ranging as high as 20 percent to 30 percent threatening to cripple many leading public universities and erode their world-class quality.
The declining priority that states have given to public higher education makes sense for them but is a disaster for the nation. The growing mismatch between state priorities and national needs suggests that it’s time once again to realign responsibilities between the state and the nation for higher education and provide adequate resources to sustain American leadership.
Here is a taste of the solution proposed by the author of the article:
Once more, it is time for the federal government to step in and provide the support necessary to keep our crucial graduate programs among the best in the world. Educating scientists and engineers, physicians and teachers, business leaders and entrepreneurs is vital to developing the human capital that is now key to national prosperity and security in the global, knowledge-driven economy. It cannot be left dependent on shifting state priorities and declining state support.
We are certain that the future financing of the UW system will be hotly discussed during the coming months in view of larger-than-expected shortfalls in state revenues. Now is the time to begin considering a range of proposed solutions from privatization to federal funding and to anticipate the intended and unintended consequences of each.