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Presentation on Wisconsin

A presentation called “Higher Education and the Future of Wisconsin” was delivered by Dennis Jones at the June UW Board of Regents meeting. This is a very interesting, data-filled PP on higher ed, placing education and Wisconsin in a broader national context. View Jones’s presentation at www.wisconsin.edu/news/2007/06-2007/jun07-HigherEdFutureWisc.pdf

Jones said that improving the state’s economy, providing educational access for Wisconsin’s aging and diversifying population, and revitalizing Milwaukee should be top priorities for the UW System as it executes its Growth Agenda.

Those issues may sound as though they are outside the scope of the university system, but the UW’s agenda is dependent upon the public agenda for success, said Jones.

Because there are not enough jobs for them, many people who obtain a degree in Wisconsin work in other states, keeping the percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree here below the national average. Per-capita income in the state also is less than the national average.

“The biggest problem in Wisconsin is creating jobs for people graduating with a bachelor’s degree,” Jones said.

Wisconsin has many other economic obstacles to overcome that the System could play a role in addressing, he said.

“If you look at the states that have high incomes and high educational attainment, they are the ones that have made the transition to knowledge-based economies with numerous information and biomedical-based industries,” Jones said. “These are not the industries that made Milwaukee famous. Wisconsin is not there yet.”

The UW System also should prepare for the state’s future economic needs by shifting its services to accommodate a projected change in the state’s demographics. The population is not expected to grow, particularly in Milwaukee, and the numbers of youth will be much more racially diverse.

Adult continuing education and access to higher education for minorities will to be very important to the state in the next decade, Jones added.

In the area of research, the UW System ranks high, he said, turning out many patents and doctoral graduates, but it isn’t translating into enough commercial enterprise.

“It’s a miserable venture capital environment,” he said. “The question is how do you connect the capacity you have built in research with the economy of the state?”

The next step for the Board of Regents, Jones said, would be to create and build consensus around a short list of state priorities that the UW System should address. He also advised devising a mechanism to keep the focus on the priorities for an extended period of time, identify measures that allow monitoring progress in achieving the goals, and to provide incentives for pursuing them.

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