Review of NBP Controversy in Inside Higher Ed

In Inside Higher Ed‘s otherwise balanced and comprehensive review of the NBP and its remains, one statement stands out as demonstrably false and ultimately self-serving:  Near the end of the very long article, on the issue of continued state support for higher education, Martin says, “We have laid the groundwork for increased investment in higher education when the economy in Wisconsin begins to grow again.”

I would argue that the administration’s campaign for the NBP was premised on the notion that state support was declining and would continue to decline in the future and thus that the “new flexibilities” were necessary to stay afloat. One would guess that if she was saying that to the campus audience she must have been saying that and more to Walker, et. al.  There was no discuss of alternatives including (dare we say it!) higher taxes.

Looking at the budget process this year, we can see a number of cases where protests from those who were going to be on the short end of funding forced Joint Finance to change Walker’s proposed budget: the recyling program was restored (outcry from cities) ban on phosphorus repealed (from environmentalists), $100 million restored to K-12, etc.

Compare these responses to the almost-welcoming reaction to our loss of $100 million. (Note this was the same passive response from Reilly in the last budget). Clearly, the legislators know that if a constituency will sit still for this one time they will come back and cut and cut and cut.

If anything, the passivity of the administration and the entire higher education community (and that includes US) to this and prior reductions will have laid the groundwork for continued disinvestment in higher education even if the economy begins to grow.

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10 Responses to Review of NBP Controversy in Inside Higher Ed

  1. Frank says:

    No, the Legislature and Governor both know that the UW System has a relatively small constituency and the UW has learned that fighting is fruitless unless the cuts are really excessive. Given the budget and politcal reality there was no point in fighting over dollars–but it was a good time to fight over how the money can be spent and the UW got their first win ever on this. So like it or not the strategy got postive results that have been decades in the making. Now that the door has opened it will be easier to expand the rights UW gets. In the past UW budgets have usaully gone up in good times so I expect that would happen again. And in bad times it goes down no matter what party is in power.
    Look at the other states around the country. Many have state U’s getting far worse cuts than UW did this time. You are living in another world if you think more taxes were even on the table. Even in Democrat controlled Washington the state U came away with a larger cut than our UW got. But they did get more tuition control.

  2. Frank says:

    Welcome back Frankie – we’ve missed you!

    Not sure what you mean by getting a win and positive results? Muzzling all our state experts and leaders while anti-education initiatives populated the budget doesn’t seem like a win to me or to k-12 educators confronting severe cuts or folks in rural Wisconsin and our smaller campuses who were looking forward to improved internet service, or the cuts in health care for the working poor, just to name a few. The leaders of UW should been fighting this bill and not fighting each other.

    But I suppose we should be thankful for the crumbs and know our place.

  3. Frank says:

    The state elected them fair and square as those things go. I don’t know if the fact that they actually carried out their agenda with control of the entire state government should be all that surprising. It was unfortunate that the other System folks had to get shocked out of their decades long sleep-walk and actually had to do something but the results were worth it IMHO. If Madison had not started this it never would have happened.

    Now the real issue with the UW System is the over-capacity all over the state. Not everyone with a 20 on the ACT and a low B average in the days of grade inflation really needs to go to a 4 year college. The other campuses should get a fixed deadline to get those graduation rates up to an acceptable level which would be somewhere near 67% over 6 years or their funding gets cut for every student below that line and goes to the schools that are working until there is no more demand. The biggest waste in the UW System is not an admin making $150K but the 1000’s of “students” who start but don’t finish eating up many $1000s in wasted money per student per semester. The number of high school grads is starting to decline in the state so the excess capacity will continue to grow at a faster rate.

    Can the System leadership really lead and get tough with the failing schools? Has a UW Chancellor ever been fired for poor graduation rates? Maybe we need to make one failing campus a charter college and turn it over to private mgt. to see if it can be improved.

    In light of the fact that demand for college grads outside some tech fields has fallen off a cliff the rush to produce more of them may not be economically justified in times of limited resources. Even leading liberal economist Krugman questions the need for an ever larger number of college grads.

    These are some of the real issues the UW System needs to address. Not beating a few more bucks out of a state that is nearly broke.

  4. Sara Goldrick-Rab says:

    What else can one say? There are Frank R’s great ideas- close public schools and privatize them.

    His is a misrepresentation of the Krugman piece. See here:

  5. Frank says:

    That NR article is just a puff piece with a couple old anecdotes for facts. Hardly in depth reporting.

    Also for one who cries like a baby over being “misquoted” you took one sentence and managed to get that wrong. What I said was that if any UW colleges continue not to meet minimum graduation standards the management should be changed maybe even to a charter school type concept. It would still be a public school–just with new outside management. Maybe you need to learn what a charter school is.

    Also you need to check your facts on which UW campus produces the most instate bachelor’s degree recipients. It’s not UWM. It’s the school where you work yet love to badmouth at every turn and by a large margin. Where do you get your info anyway?? Twitter??

  6. Crazy Harry says:

    By the System’s own admission, it asked for flexibility for years, all to no avail. The former Regent President is the former Governor’s BFF. Did Walsh ever ask Doyle for help or — if he asked — did Doyle say no? Folks, this proposal was nowhere until Biddy Martin returned to Mad City. You can spin it any way you want, but she got done in two years what the feckless Regents and System administration couldn’t get done in 10 years. And she’s just getting warmed up!

  7. Frank says:

    Time for BM to fire up a new major capital campaign. Most actual Madison alums like her a lot. Her leadership resonates with those wanting Madison to really shine as it did before the merger. Students love her which is nearly impossible for a Chancellor. Now she has more tools to reshape the university and reassert excellence in as many areas as possible.
    The market has recovered most of its losses and while home values are still in the tank most people feel more secure than a few years ago.
    $3 Billion has a nice ring to it. It’s been a long time since the last campaign and this will take the focus off the recent in-fighting and move it to something positive and about the future. She has a good man in place to help at the UWF. He’s still relatively young and energetic and wants to make his mark at the UWF before moving to head a major university somewhere.

  8. anon says:

    Frank, I don’t know if the “good man” you’re talking about is the same one I’m thinking of. If so, I’ve heard that his energy isn’t necessarily tempered (yet) by a good grasp of how one cultivates and maintains good long-term university-donor relations on a highly individualized basis. For example, not all big donors have big egos, and not all enjoy being given extravagant VIP treatment at university expense. On the contrary, some find it wasteful and therefore disrespectful of their contributions.

  9. Frank says:

    All I know is he brought in heretofore unseen donations and spirit to the long neglected B School and was in personal contact with even smaller donors on a regular first name basis. If that’s bad I want more. I am sure you can’t please all the people all the time but he was the first UW official to ever really reach out to me personally (and all B school alums) and solicit both my opinions and money. If anyone got their nose out of joint over some “over the top” treatment I am pretty sure they’ll get over it. They could always politely decline the offer. I have been to a fair number of dinner fundraisers for various non-profits and have yet to be at one that served franks and beans.

  10. Frank says:

    Well, if there is a new capital campaign it won’t be under Biddy Martin’s leadership. I am shocked and deeply saddened to hear she is leaving at this time. Now the BOR will look for a yes man cipher like Reilly instead os a real leader. This is a black day for UW.

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