If you haven’t heard, the University of Wisconsin System has a surplus. It turns out the university system, whose annual budget of $5.6 billion is about the size of Bermuda’s gross domestic product, has about $650 million in reserve funds. A Legislative Fiscal Bureau report last week revealed these funds, and it was immediately taken up by lawmakers who questioned how that much money could be sitting in reserve at the same time tuition rates have been rising.
Given that we’re in a budget cycle, this is not a low-stakes matter. And lawmakers who are longtime critics or opponents of the UW System have been more than happy to use the news of the reserve as a club to beat up on the state’s universities.