The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

2009-11 state budget could hurt UWEC

UW-Eau Claire could see both “painful cuts” and “positive provisions” under the 2009-11 state budget signed by Gov. Jim Doyle this summer.

The budget outlines eventual funding to replace Brewer Hall and Campus School. That funding – to the tune of about $44.5 million – is expected to come Eau Claire’s way between 2011 and 2013, according to a university press release.

But the current budget also reduces Eau Claire’s operating budget by $14.4 million between 2009 and 2011, according to the release.

“Because of that reduction, quality at the university is going to decrease,” said senior Aaron Wingad, a UW System Regent. “It has to. I mean, in the face of declining state resources, you have two choices, really: to charge more or do less. … Students are going to be paying more for their education, but the quality is going to be slightly reduced.”

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Wingad said he doesn’t think a drop in quality at the university will affect the value of students’ degrees from Eau Claire, though. Class sizes may get larger, and lines at the university may get longer, he said, but “the value of the degree that you’re getting, that’s not going to decrease.”

Wingad also noted the project to replace Brewer Hall and Campus School isn’t guaranteed yet. If the state’s financial situation worsens, he said, funding for the project could be affected.

David Gessner, assistant chancellor for budget and finance, said he doesn’t think students will notice reductions in quality at the university, but they may see the effects of unfilled faculty vacancies. He said the university has tried to avoid laying off workers, but that it also is not filling open positions.

The budget also cuts $2.5 million from the university’s base operating budget each of the next two years, according to the university press release.

Gessner said the most recent budget reflects an ongoing trend of declining state funding for the UW System. He said state aid to the System has been in decline for years, but the current budget marks some of the most severe decreases he has seen.

“Over the last 10 years we’ve had a series of accumulating base reductions,” Gessner said. “This is the most that I’ve seen in the shortest period of time.”

The budget also:

– Rescinds 2 percent pay-plan increases for all unclassified and non-represented classified System staff.

– Mandates 16 days of unpaid leave (12 days for employees on nine-month contracts) during the biennium.

– Transfers $2.1 million of Eau Claire’s revenue to help fund Wisconsin Higher Education Grant financial aid.

Eliminating the 2 percent pay-plan increase for certain System staff does not amount to a pay decrease, Gessner said, but to a rescinding of previously promised pay raises instead.

Gessner also said he thinks the university will be able to survive the latest round of budget reductions, but the question remains how the university will fare if the state economy doesn’t improve.

“I think that we will be challenged over the next several years beyond this if the reductions continue or (if) they get worse,” Gessner said. “I believe that can only result in the gradual erosion of educational quality. It’s a cumulative effect that eventually overwhelms you.”

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