UW System Schools report $170 million budget hole due to pandemic

UW System President Tommy Thompson’s proposed budget is requesting from the state a nearly $96 million increase
Published: Mar. 31, 2021 at 6:55 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The University of Wisconsin System Schools haven’t increased tuition in eight years and have no plans to do so now. However, that may change in the future as the pandemic created a $170 million budget shortfall.

UW Systems President Tommy Thompson defended his institution on Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Universities and Technical Colleges.

The hearing was held at UW Green Bay.

“For our operating budget we are requesting $95.7 million increase over the biennium, not including standard budget adjustments,” Thompson said.

While UW is experiencing a budget hole of $170 million, Thompson said the losses related to the pandemic were more than $600 million dollars before federal and state Covid-19 relief funds helped fill some of that gap.

“We implemented employee furloughs. We also restricted traveling. We also didn’t fill some vacancies and we’ve also had to institute layoffs,” Thompson said.

Over the last several years, legislators have cut the funds it gives UW schools with only 17 percent of UW’s overall budget coming from the state.

“What worries me is people say we need to give people free degrees. Well, that comes at the expense of the blue collar people who didn’t go to college and get a degree. Now they’re paying for that,” Sen Roger Roth, R-Appleton, said. Roth is also the chairperson of the universities and technical colleges committee.

As Action 2 News previously reported, UW schools are planning to have at least 75 percent of all classes in-person this fall.

Yet, Thompson expressed concern for the mental health of the incoming freshmen class as more students are now using counselor services on campus.

“As you know, seniors in high school have not had the greatest educational experience. They are under a lot stress, a lot of depression, a lot of anxiety,” Thompson said.

He added that despite the mask mandate being repealed by the state supreme court he’s requiring everyone to still wear one on campus.

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