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Critical UW System-wide Capital Project Investments Approved PDF Print E-mail
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Written by GOV Press Wisconsin   
Wednesday, 06 March 2024 09:47

uw-mdsn-bascom-hillGovernor signs legislation allowing UW System to retain net revenue generated by attending Minnesota students, supporting System-wide capital improvements, including projects at UW-Madison and UW-Whitewater.


MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today signed legislation to enumerate critical capital project investments for the University of Wisconsin (UW) System for System-wide capital improvements, renovations at UW-Whitewater, and the UW-Madison engineering building project, which has long been a top UW budget priority for years.

Gov. Evers previously proposed investing in the UW-Madison engineering building in his 2023-25 Capital Budget, but legislative Republicans, in a surprise move, rejected the governor’s effort despite broad business community support for the project. Gov. Evers’ comprehensive workforce plan, part of his September 2023 Special Session call of the Wisconsin State Legislature, also would have enumerated the UW-Madison engineering building project and invested an additional $100 million into Wisconsin’s higher education institutions as well as key priorities like direct investments in the state’s child care industry, but legislative Republicans gutted the effort. The governor today, in addition to approving critical capital project investments, also approved changes he has long sought during his time in office to allow the UW System to retain net revenue generated by students from Minnesota attending UW institutions, which had previously also been rejected by Republicans in the Legislature.

tony-evers“Investing in Wisconsin’s world-class higher education institutions, including our UW System, is critical for doing what’s best for our kids and helping us recruit, train, and retain talented students to help address the workforce challenges that have plagued our state for generations,” said Gov. Evers. “If we want to build a strong workforce and economy that are prepared to meet the needs of the 21st Century, then investing in public education—from early childhood to our higher education institutions—must be a top priority.

“We must continue to be focused on keeping our best and brightest while competing for and attracting talented folks to stay and build successful, thriving careers right here in Wisconsin,” Gov. Evers continued. “I’m glad to see this first step move forward today despite unnecessary delays largely driven by partisan politics, but much work remains. I will continue to fight to make the substantial investments in higher education that we need across our state, and I remain hopeful members of the Legislature will decide to join me in this important work.”

The move builds upon Gov. Evers’ and the Evers Administration’s efforts to support higher education statewide, including at the UW System and its respective campuses, while strengthening the state’s future workforce and economy by helping recruit, train, and retain students attending UW institutions. In addition to the governor’s previous special session on his comprehensive workforce plan, last month, Gov. Evers signed Senate Bill 367, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 95, requiring the Board of Regents at the UW System to establish a guaranteed admission program for pupils who rank within the top five percent or 10 percent of their high school class, depending on the UW System institution. According to the UW System, nearly 90 percent of in-state UW System graduates stay in Wisconsin five years after graduation.


Gov. Evers today signed three bills, Senate Bill (SB) 895, 896, and 161, now 2023 Wisconsin Acts 102, 103, and 104, respectively, relating to the Wisconsin-Minnesota tuition reciprocity agreement and updates to the State Building Program as enacted by the 2023-25 biennial budget.   

BACKGROUND ON UW SYSTEM PROJECT ENUMERATIONS – 2023 Wisconsin Act 102
Act 102 amends 2023 Wisconsin Act 19, the 2023-25 Authorized State Building Program, to enumerate projects for the UW System, including the renovation of the Kronshage, Humphrey, and Jorns residence halls at UW-Madison, renovation of Winther Hall and additions to Heide Hall at UW-Whitewater, and authorization of the UW-Madison engineering building project, among other System-wide projects.  

Gov. Evers has long championed the construction of the UW-Madison engineering building project, having proposed funding to support its completion in both his 2023-25 Capital Budget recommendations and as part of his special session call of the Legislature last year to address the state’s generational workforce challenges. Republicans in the Legislature previously rejected both opportunities to fund the project, potentially jeopardizing the more than $100 million that had already been pledged from supporters that was contingent on state support for the project.

According to UW-Madison, a new engineering building will provide the space and investment needed to graduate approximately 1,000 more engineering students each year, an effort that is necessary for building a strong, next-generation workforce in Wisconsin. This project has received wide bipartisan support, including 42 CEOs from some of the state’s leading employers, who penned a letter to the Republican-controlled Legislature in November urging them to pass funding for the project.

Act 102 transfers $423,273,000 to the capital improvement fund and provides bonding authority for self-amortizing facilities for projects as follows:

sb-895-chart

BACKGROUND ON TUITION RECIPROCITY CHANGES – 2023 Wisconsin Acts 103 & 104
Under the Minnesota-Wisconsin tuition reciprocity agreement, Minnesota residents can attend a UW System school without paying nonresident tuition, and conversely, Wisconsin residents can attend Minnesota public universities without paying nonresident tuition. Under the agreement, students pay the higher of the resident tuition charged at their university of attendance or the tuition at a comparable university in their home state.

Current Wisconsin law requires tuition paid by Minnesota students in excess of the Wisconsin resident tuition rate to be deposited in the state’s general fund. Under Act 103 and 104, the UW System would retain the tuition and other revenues received under the agreement rather than depositing them in the general fund, allowing the campuses to reinvest those dollars back in their respective campus and students.

In addition, 2023 Wisconsin Act 104 authorizes the UW System Board of Regents, rather than the Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB), to enter into and administer the tuition reciprocity agreement between the UW System and the state of Minnesota. Such action is appropriate, as it is the institutions that are directly impacted by the provisions of the agreement.

BILLS ENACTED
SB 161, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 104:

  • Authorizes the UW System, rather than HEAB, to enter into and administer with the state of Minnesota a tuition reciprocity agreement, which generally would provide for the waiver of nonresident tuition and for a reciprocal fee structure for residents of either state who are enrolled in comparable public institutions of higher education located in the other state.

SB 896, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 103:

  • Allows UW System institutions to keep the net revenue they earned by attracting students from Minnesota; and
  • Along with Senate Bill 161, provides the UW System the opportunity to negotiate on behalf of its institutions to ensure that the tuition reciprocity agreement effectively serves Wisconsin students.

SB 895, now 2023 Wisconsin Act 102:

  • Amends the 2023-25 Authorized State Building Program, under 2023 Wisconsin Act 19, to include additional enumerations for the UW System; and
  • Requires the UW System Board of Regents to submit to the Board of Veterans Affairs a plan to honor the veterans of the state.
 
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