May 25, 2017
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UW-Parkside seeks funding support

University leaders discuss needs for state budget


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BY JEFFREY ZAMPANTI
jzampanti@kenoshanews.com


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The University of Wisconsin-Parkside hopes for encouraging news from the state legislature next week in Madison as university officials lobby for funding to support their mission.

The Joint Committee on Finance meets Tuesday to discuss a variety of appropriations impacting the University of Wisconsin System for the state’s 2017-19 biennial budget. Several key items are on Tuesday’s agenda are employee compensation, capital projects and performance funding.

“I’m very hopeful there will be support,” Parkside Chancellor Deborah Ford said. “We’re going to know Tuesday what the joint finance committee is thinking and ultimately the full legislature will have the opportunity to review the budget.”

The state budget is expected to be signed by Gov. Scott Walker before July 1.

The UW System includes 13 four-year universities, including its youngest and perhaps most unique member, UW-Parkside. The university honored over 500 students at last week’s commencement, representing Parkside’s largest graduating class since the school’s 1968 inception.

Parkside’s mission caters to the most diverse student population in the UW System — with roughly 30 percent minority — and accommodates a large pool of adult learners and transfer students. Nearly 60 percent of Parkside graduates are the first in their family to earn a college degree.

The state’s performance funding is based on graduation rates for traditional, first-year college students. In the past five years, 45 percent of Parkside graduates started as transfers, according to Ford.

“The metrics that might work for UW-Madison or UW-Eau Claire or UW-La Crosse are not the metrics that are going to work at UW-Parkside,” Ford said. “We want to make sure all students are counted and we feel like we’ve been heard. Every time we go into a legislature’s office, they say they know one size doesn’t fit all.”

For the first time in several years, Walker’s budget included a provision for employee compensation. The proposal would slash UW System tuition by 5 percent but restore millions of dollars cut from the system, showing a commitment to its faculty and staff.

“I think most of us want our kids to go to college,” Parkside Provost and Vice Chancellor Robert Ducoffe said. “If they don’t get a college education, their career options are limited. The data is absolutely clear. A college graduate makes close to $20,000 more a year than a high school graduate. The economic argument for investing in college is pretty strong.”

Tuesday’s meeting could also address capital budget requests for infrastructure repairs and upgrades at Parkside’s Wyllie Hall. The project was identified as a priority in the current biennium but not funded in the last two-year budget.

The estimated $35 million project was pushed near the top of the priority list by the UW Board of Regents. Wyllie Hall contains classrooms and computer labs, and key administrative departments including the Chancellor’s office. Main Place, a multi-level area in the atrium, features study areas, Wyllie Market and access to the library.

“Wyllie is a beautiful area,” said Melvin Klinkner, Parkside’s Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance. “The mechanicals and technology are so old. There are no plug-ins for students. There’s water leaks in the piping.”

There is no elevator to Mid-Main in Wyllie Hall, only a chair lift.

“It’s just old and needs improvements,” Klinkner said.

The Parkside pool, which was shut down for repair and maintenance last July, remains closed. The project was expected to take a couple months, but extended with no timetable after a closer inspection revealed structural issues.

“That has been sort of on the back burner for quite awhile,” Klinkner said. “When they looked behind the cement walls, the (steel) rebar was rotting out. We are researching what can be done and how much more budget it will take.”

The state budget covers a two-year period from July 1 of one odd-numbered year through June 30 of the next odd-numbered year.

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify accessibility in Wyllie Hall.


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