The University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point will take another budget cut, to the tune of $1.9 million. This ‘budget lapse’ is the last of a series of cuts caused by the Walker administration’s Budget Repair Bill, which closed a budget shortfall with cuts rather than tax increases.
The lapse reflects the last of the unspecified cuts in the budget drawn up by the legislature last year, when the state erupted with anti-austerity and pro-labor demonstrations in response. The cuts will result in some financial cuts on campus, although campus officials say no adverse effects are apparent.
In accordance with the budget lapse, the UW System is required to pay a percentage of its funding back to the state treasury, as will other state agencies. The System will return $46.1 million to the state in total; this is over 37 percent of the $123.3 million the Joint Finance Committee requested back from state agencies as part of the lapse. UW System advocates hold that this 37 percent cut to the state’s public higher education cut is too disproportionate, as the System receives roughly 7 percent of the state’s general expenditures.
Referring to the lapse, Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha) said in a statement that "Today's budget cuts are again disproportionally targeted at one of the worst places to hit in a difficult economy: our Wisconsin public education system."
In a Dec. 14 letter to Gov. Walker’s budget director and the Joint Finance Committee, UW System President Kevin Reilly said, "To put this in another perspective, $46 million is equivalent to a full year's worth of state support for 11,360 UW students or 511 faculty and staff positions."
Each UW school is required to contribute to this $46.1 million cut, and the amount each school pays is based on the amount of money allocated to it by the state. To give a little perspective, Stevens Point is required to pay 4.3 percent of the lapse to the UW System, compared to UW-Madison’s 38 percent.
The effects of this lapse on UW-Stevens Point are not too painful. According to Vice Chancellor of Business Affairs Greg Diemer, unavailability of some class sections and a lack of IT upgrades are expected to be a couple of outcomes as a result of the lapse. The Pointer Compact, a differential tuition plan that was proposed last semester, would alleviate these problems; however, it would do so by eliminating bottleneck courses and allocating student payments directly to student services.
SGA President Ryan Rutledge said that a budget summit was held last month in order to assess the problem of the lapse. Rutledge said that, in light of this lapse, UWSP will begin to concentrate on enrollment numbers. Enrollment increases would help the university make up for monetary shortfalls.
The approval of this lapse was neither well received nor staunchly opposed by students. “There were no hard feelings between students and faculty as far as the lapse is concerned,” Rutledge said. One of the few opinions voiced by students, however, was that spending cuts should be organized in a way that would emphasize the prevalence of academic and student services, cutting the least from these areas.
UWSP administrators are confident the approval of this lapse will have no serious effects on students. Tuition in the UW System is expected to increase by 5.5 percent next year, but this increase has been planned since last year, Diemer said.
According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, after this lapse the state budget still consists of $51 million in unspecified cuts, which will emerge later this year. However, those future spending decreases, or cuts, might surpass the $51 million mark, depending on tax revenues.