WI Students, Faculty, Community Stand Up Against Folly of Budget Cuts

RICE LAKE – Community leaders from across northern and western Wisconsin spoke out yesterday against the proposal to impose devastating budget cuts and a public authority on the University of Wisconsin System, at the third Joint Finance Committee hearing of the budget cycle.
“As President of a precision engineering company in northwestern Wisconsin I rely on being able to hire well-educated engineers to grow my business,” said Rod Kleiss, President of Kleiss Gears in Grantsburg. “UW-Stout has one of the best plastics engineering programs in the county and is one of the reasons why I moved my business to Wisconsin ten years ago. But as I see the UW budget being cut to the bone, I worry that my business will no longer have access to the engineering talent needed for the next surge of growth in the company. This is the wrong direction to take the university and to take our state.”
The proposed $300 million budget cut, and move to a public authority, have come under intense scrutiny throughout the budget process. Students, faculty, staff & community supporters have asked lawmakers to reject the proposals and protect the university system.
“The university develops an educated workforce of future employees, taxpayers, and entrepreneurs,” said Prof. John Heppen, Chair of the Dept. of Geography & Mapping Sciences at UW-River Falls. “We cannot simply hand over control without fully and transparently vetting the proposal. The budget process is too accelerated to ensure we get this right, so we must find the resources to invest in education and take the public authority idea back to the drawing board.”
“This budget hurts my fellow students and me in tangible ways,” said UW-Stout student Amerika Vang, a senior in business administration who serves as president of the UW-Stout Student Association “These cuts mean it will take us longer to graduate, and we’ll take on more debt along the way. Furthermore, any cuts will most negatively impact minority and disadvantaged students across the state.”
“We are also concerned that the university will be less responsive to community needs if we end the legislative guarantee of shared governance,” said Seth Hoffmeister, a 2014 graduate of UW-Stevens Point and current resident of Eau Claire. “We cannot risk the unknown, including the likelihood we will see massive tuition increases in the future. I encourage legislators to reverse course and remove these harmful items from the budget.”
“Our state depends on our local UW campuses, both for economic and civic support,” said Peter Nordgren, a retired UW-Superior graduate from Cornucopia in Bayfield County. “Investing in the UW System campuses is a proven way to grow the economy of our state. In each community with a two- or four-year UW campus it is easy to see the economic benefits. Lawmakers need to protect funding for, and the integrity of, our great university system.”

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