University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

NEWS RELEASE

News Bureau . Schofield Hall 201 . Eau Claire, WI 54702
phone: (715) 836-4741
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UW-Eau Claire’s Accountability Report
Shows University is Exceeding Its Goals

 MAILED:  Feb. 9, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — The University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire provides its students with an outstanding living and learning environment, even during these fiscally challenging times, according to the university’s annual accountability report.

In “Achieving Excellence at UW-Eau Claire,” the university reports that it is doing well in a number of the areas measured in the report, including improved student retention rates, study abroad opportunities and faculty/student collaborative research.

“Overall, the news for UW-Eau Claire is very good,” Chancellor Donald Mash said of the report’s findings. “We have met or exceeded our targets in a number of areas, areas that we believe are extremely important to providing a quality learning environment.”

UW-Eau Claire’s campus report is part of the UW System’s 2003-04 “Achieving Excellence” accountability report, which was presented by UW System President Katharine Lyall to the Board of Regents last week during its February meeting. The accountability report measures UW System performance compared to national standards in a number of areas.

UW-Eau Claire report highlights include:

“Our students are active and engaged in and out of the classroom,” Mash said. “Students are capitalizing on the incredible opportunities available to them.”

But maintaining that level of excellence has been and will continue to be a challenge as the university manages substantial budget cuts, Mash said.

“We are not willing to sacrifice quality,” Mash said. “Students come to UW-Eau Claire because of our strong academic programs and our dynamic living and learning environment. We want to continue meeting or exceeding our students’ expectations for excellence.”

Preserving quality for the traditional-age, full-time students has meant limiting opportunities for non-traditional, part-time students, Mash said. And that’s bad for the region and state because the non-traditional students will remain in Wisconsin after they graduate and contribute to a brain-gain for the state, he said.

“There are many things we could be doing for employed adults looking to further their education,” Mash said. “But we aren’t able to do many of them because our limited financial capacity forces us to focus on our core mission of serving traditional-age, full-time students.”

In time people throughout the region and state will personally feel the impact of the cuts to the System because the university’s reach and impact extends well beyond its enrolled students and the borders of campus, Mash said.

“We’re striving to be very good at what we do,” Mash said. “We’re educating students and addressing core functions as we limit enrollment growth and shrink our programs to maintain quality in the face of diminished financial capacity.

“But if we continue down this road, which has been the trend line for over a decade, UW-Eau Claire will be a shadow of its former self, and that will be too bad for the Chippewa Valley and Wisconsin.”

When presenting the UW System’s accountability report to the regents, Lyall praised faculty and staff for their skillful management of university operations during a period of deep budget reductions. But she stressed that effects from the most recent state cuts of $250 million to the university’s budget for 2003-05 will not be reflected until next year’s report — and beyond.

“While our performance has improved over last year, I am concerned about the future,” Lyall said. “Many of the ways in which the current budget crisis will impact our students have not yet been felt on our campuses.”

Lyall said the accountability report responds to multiple stakeholders and outlines the tradeoffs the UW System is making to accommodate a difficult fiscal environment. For example, she noted that campuses protected student instruction from the biggest cuts this academic year, which meant reducing academic support positions, including academic advisers.

“In tight financial times, the university must make choices that balance competing interests fairly while preserving our long-term capacity to meet our public purpose,” Lyall said.

Overall, the UW System met or exceeded 14 of 20 targets in 2003-04, according to the accountability report. These include increasing graduation and retention rates, which are now at the highest levels ever in the UW System; enrolling more students in pre-college programs and distance education courses; fostering critical thinking skills; providing opportunities for students to work on research with faculty outside the classroom; and having students exceed state and national averages on exams for graduate school and professional fields, like accounting.

Other measures that were met or exceeded, include the number of credits students attempt to complete degrees; providing student learning experiences outside the classroom; preparing students to live in a diverse world; increasing faculty use of technology in classrooms; student and faculty satisfaction with technology resources; stewardship of resources, especially keeping administrative costs low, developing more academic collaborations and realizing cost savings through shared technology agreements; and committing resources for professional development.

The report outlines mixed results on four measures: closing the access gap for students of color; academic advising; student volunteering and voting participation; and maintenance backlogs in classrooms and buildings. Two other measures — access for non-traditional students and study abroad experiences — still leave room for improvement.

“The areas where we are falling short of our goals — especially in access for non-traditional students, advising, building maintenance, and study abroad — present challenges that are exacerbated by our current budget situation,” Lyall said.

The UW System was among the first state university systems to issue a public accountability report when it began doing so in 1993. Prepared by the UW System Office of Policy Analysis and Research, the report is available online. The report also contains institution-specific accountability reports, including UW-Eau Claire’s report.

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Excellence. Our measure, our motto, our goal.

 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741
newsbur@uwec.edu

Updated: February 9, 2004