President Lyall Outlines UW System

Challenges During Eau Claire Visit


EAU CLAIREThe state of Wisconsin must reinvest in higher education if the UW System is to continue meeting its high standards for academic quality and access, UW System President Katharine Lyall said during a brief visit to Eau Claire Monday, May 10.

 “I’m proud that we’ve maintained enrollment levels despite big budget cuts,” said Lyall, who visited the Eau Claire, Stout and River Falls campuses and communities during a quick two-day swing through western Wisconsin. “We must stabilize funding or the System will not be able to support 160,000 students.”

Challenges facing the System noted by Lyall include:

·        Restoring faculty positions. The UW System lost 700 faculty positions in the last decade, Lyall said, noting that System-wide enrollment increased by 10,000 students during the same period. The System will request that funding for 300 faculty positions be restored in the 2005-07 biennium budget, she said.

·        Financial aid. To provide higher education opportunities for students from low-income families, financial aid must increase to match higher tuition levels. Already, the percentage of students from low-income families attending UW System schools has dropped from 15 percent to 11 percent. “We’re evolving from a state with a philosophy of low tuition/low aid to one of average tuition/low aid,” Lyall said, adding that a majority of the aid now comes in the form of loans rather than grants. “Students are concerned about the level and form of financial aid.”

·        Adult students. Limited resources mean fewer opportunities to serve working adults, Lyall said. Because campuses are struggling to meet the needs of their traditional-age populations, they’re limited in what they can do for adults who need services such as evening or weekend classes. Campuses are serving fewer adult students at the same time more working adults are seeking access, she said.

·        Business/Industry needs. Campuses are limited in how they can respond to the needs of business and industry. For example, the health care industry needs more nurses and other health care professionals. But campuses don’t have the resources or flexibility to quickly respond to these needs, Lyall said.

·        Diversity. The UW System has made steady progress in attracting more students of color to its campuses. If the trend continues, in the next few years the System’s student body will mirror the state’s population in terms of racial makeup, Lyall said. But institutions still must focus on campus climate issues, ensuring students of color have the support they need to succeed once on campus, she said.

Lyall, 62, announced her retirement in February, marking the end of one of the longest presidencies in the history of the UW System. She will stay until her replacement arrives this summer. In September, Lyall, an economist, will begin an appointment as a visiting senior scholar at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in Palo Alto, Calif.

Lyall was named president of the UW System in April of 1992 after serving for eight months as acting president, replacing Kenneth (Buzz) Shaw who became chancellor of Syracuse University. She served as executive vice president for five years under Shaw, having come to the UW System as vice president for academic affairs and professor of economics from The Johns Hopkins University in 1982.

Monday’s stop in Eau Claire was part of Lyall’s plan to visit each campus a last time before retiring. “I thought I better do an inventory to make sure all the campuses are still there,” she joked. “I want to make sure I’m handing over to my successor the same number of campuses that were given to me.”