University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


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phone: (715) 836-4741
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UW-Eau Claire Opens
2004-05 Academic Year

 MAILED:  Aug. 24, 2004

EAU CLAIRE — Faculty and staff at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire have done an exceptional job of educating students in spite of huge cuts to the university's budget, Chancellor Donald Mash told about 600 faculty and academic staff members today (Aug. 24) during the opening meeting of the 2004-05 academic year.

"The bottom line is the university is in extraordinarily good shape," Mash said during his seventh annual "State of the University" address. "We're doing very, very well by our students — all things considered."

U.S. News & World Report magazine again recognized UW-Eau Claire as one of the best public regional universities in the Midwest, a record-number of students applied to UW-Eau Claire this fall and state media are noting UW-Eau Claire's increasing popularity, Mash said.

"We're still an outstanding university; perhaps better than we've ever been," Mash said, crediting the hard-working faculty and staff for continuing UW-Eau Claire's tradition of excellence. "In terms of the day-to-day basic way we touch our students' lives, we have not been compromised much by the budget cuts and other challenges."

But the deepest budget cuts in the System's history are forcing UW-Eau Claire to focus only on its core mission — educating full-time traditional-age students — and to limit access to critical programs, Mash said. More than 7,300 students applied for the 2,000 spots available for UW-Eau Claire's 2004 freshman class.

"We are not growing," Mash said. "We have the same enrollment we had when I arrived six years ago. And the UW System as a whole enrolls fewer students today than it did in the mid-1980s, as do we. We have one of the best higher education systems in the country yet we're enrolling fewer students today than we were 20 years ago. That should be an attention-getter."

In the mid-1980s, UW System was forced to limit enrollment because it did not have the resources to support the number of students enrolled. "State decision-makers couldn't have envisioned that 20 years later we would be an even smaller System than then," Mash said. "This is bad news for Wisconsin."

When considering the UW System's future, state leaders must see the UW System "as the growth industry that it should be," Mash said, adding that Wisconsin currently ranks 31st among the 50 states in the number of state residents with a college degree. Mash said the Governor has lamented that fact and has stated that increasing the number of college graduates living in Wisconsin should be a state goal.

"We can produce more graduates," Mash said. "But it can't happen without additional state funding."

More than 80 percent of UW System graduates remain in Wisconsin, Mash said. But Wisconsin ranks last among states attracting college graduates into our state, he said.

"Those two numbers offer a strong argument for us to invest more heavily in higher education in Wisconsin to grow our own college graduates," Mash said.

Wisconsin also ranks among the bottom of states in the percentage of adult (age 25 and over) students attending college, Mash said. Adults throughout the state would enroll if we had the financial capacity to aggressively reach out to them and to offer the additional sections of classes they need at times that would make it possible for them to attend, he said.

"We can't reach out to them," Mash said of adult students. "Instead, we're limiting growth, focusing on our core and limiting program enrollment in key disciplines. And that's too bad for Wisconsin."

The health care industry, for example, is suffering because of the UW System's financial limitations, Mash said. All five UW System nursing programs are at capacity and regularly turn away qualified people who want to be nurses, he said. "If we could add faculty, we could graduate more nurses," he said. "And that would be good for Wisconsin."

Wisconsin residents know the UW System is top-notch and that UW-Eau Claire is an outstanding campus, Mash said. "What we need to do is hold out the promise of what could be possible," he said of educating Wisconsin residents about the System's potential to help grow Wisconsin. "We can and should do more."

Mash said he is optimistic that the worst of the budget cuts is behind the UW System, and he's hopeful the 2005-07 budget will allow campuses to replace lost positions and fund a faculty and staff pay increase. UW-Eau Claire must increase its financial capacity in order to recruit and retain the best people and do so in a competitive national marketplace, he said.

"The state of Wisconsin is spending money," Mash said. "It's just not spending it on its public higher education system and that's what needs to change … As a System, we need to communicate more effectively with the general public about Wisconsin's future and the role that we can play to make it brighter. The level of understanding about what we can't do as a result of reduced financial capacity is very low."

At the campus level, faculty, staff, administrators and students are working hard to secure resources so programs can continue and grow, Mash said. The university is securing more grant and private dollars than ever before; students are continuing to support a differential tuition above the required tuition; and faculty, staff, alumni and other friends of the university are strongly supporting UW-Eau Claire's Fulfilling the Promise of Excellence campaign, he said.

UW-Eau Claire's first comprehensive fundraising campaign has been so successful that the university surpassed its $35 million goal 15 months ahead of schedule, Mash said. The UW-Eau Claire Foundation executive committee will propose at the Foundation board of directors' annual meeting this fall that the campaign be extended through December 2007 and that the goal be raised to $50 million.

"We need to build our financial capacity," Mash said. "We're a lean, mean operation that knows what it must do to fulfill its role as a top-notch regional public university."

Mash also talked about the great impact UW-Eau Claire alumni have on western Wisconsin. He noted that a Chippewa Valley business-to-business journal recently featured a dozen "movers and shakers" in western Wisconsin. Most of those featured — people who have succeeded professionally and who have contributed to their communities in meaningful ways — are graduates of UW-Eau Claire.

"We have a plan for the future," Mash said of UW-Eau Claire. "We're going to keep working on the challenges as we keep our eyes on the goal — doing a great job of educating students and contributing significantly to Wisconsin's future."



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 Judy Berthiaume, Director
UW-Eau Claire News Bureau
Schofield 201
(715) 836-4741

Updated: August 25, 2004