UW System president warns of campus closures, tuition hikes if budget gets cut

Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has for cuts of $32 million from the UW System's 2023-25 budget, an amount he says is equal to what the system spends on diversity and equity officers biennially.

Associated Press

June 21, 2023

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Jay Rothman sits in a chair at a table and speaks into a microphone, with one seated person to his side and another in the background, with a video graphic on the bottom of the image noting a meeting of the Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue.

UW System President Jay Rothman testifies to the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Universities and Revenue at a meeting on June 20, 2023. (Credit: Courtesy of WisconsinEye)

AP News

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The University of Wisconsin System’s top leader says he may have to close campuses and raise tuition if the Legislature’s Republican-controlled finance committee follows through with proposed budget cuts.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos has called on the committee to cut $32 million from the system over the next two fiscal years, an amount he says is equal to what it spends on diversity and equity officers biennially. The committee is expected to vote on including the cut in the 2023-25 state budget as it wraps up its work on the spending plan on June 22.

Ten of the system’s 13 campuses are expected to face a combined $60 million deficit by the summer of 2024. UW System officials had asked for $435.9 million in additional state aid in the budget.

System President Jay Rothman told the Senate universities committee on June 20 that the $32 million cut could mean campus closures, ending programs and raising tuition, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

“It’s just that simple,” Rothman said. “We do not have the resources to continue to simply do what we have done before.”

Vos told reporters the previous week that he believes diversity efforts have become liberals’ “new religion” and that tax dollars shouldn’t support them. The conflict is part of a broader cultural battle over college diversity initiatives playing out nationwide; GOP lawmakers have proposed more than 30 bills in 12 states to limit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in higher education, an Associated Press analysis found in April.

Finance committee approval would send the budget to the full Assembly and Senate. If both chambers sign off on the spending plan, it would go to Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, who can sign it into law, veto the whole thing or use his partial veto powers to rewrite the document. Evers has vowed to veto the budget if it includes the UW cuts.

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