Dear Members of the UW-Madison Community,
During the past six months, I have spent many enjoyable and fruitful hours
talking with faculty, staff, students, alumni, state and local government leaders, and Wisconsin citizens about the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
I have been delighted by the widespread appreciation and support expressed by the people of the state and by our alumni all over the country for this world-class research university. The state, the nation and the world need research universities of UW-Madison’s caliber, and it is our responsibility to preserve their value and enhance their access and their contributions to the public.
The discussions I have had, including the four campuswide forums I held last semester, focused, in part, on improvements we can make in our operations and on strategies for enhancing our efficiency and effectiveness. In the context of our budget planning, we are working hard on short- and long-term opportunities for efficiencies. We featured some of our plans in a recent edition of Wisconsin Week.
My exchanges with the community have also convinced me that we need to move quickly to invest in improvements in undergraduate education and to make it affordable and accessible.
I am, therefore, proposing the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates, which will add faculty and instructional support, giving our students easier
access to core courses; popular and important majors; tenured and tenure-track faculty; and vital student services. It will also increase the university’s ability to provide need-based financial aid.
To make this plan a reality, students will pay a supplemental UW-Madison
tuition charge. However, students with demonstrated financial need from families earning $80,000 or less will receive grants to offset this supplemental tuition charge.
All students will benefit from easier access to courses and majors;
improved student services; greater contact with faculty; more
faculty-taught courses; more innovative pedagogical approaches; a stronger student body; and assurance that the value of their degrees will be
We will add faculty and instructional support in high-demand courses and
majors, particularly in the College of Letters and Science, where the
majority of undergraduate teaching takes place, and where we have lost
faculty to competitor institutions without having the funds to replace them. As a result, students are increasingly closed out of gateway courses and high-demand majors. We will build on successful efforts to offer students smaller faculty-led courses and transform curriculum so students are better prepared for a changing world.
We will also enhance staffing and programs in student services, including
counseling, academic and career advising, and peer mentoring, all of which
have been cited as vital needs, particularly in this difficult time.
For every tuition dollar we use to increase financial aid, we will raise at least $1 in private gifts. Our goal is to fill the current shortfall of $20 million in unmet need using those two sources of funding.
The overall increase in our need-based financial aid will also benefit many
of those same students, as well as other students whose families may earn
more, but who have other pressures on their finances, such as more than one child in college.
The state of Wisconsin has built a tremendous resource in the UW-Madison.
The value of the education and research we provide has never been greater.
The premium earned by college-degree holders has grown substantially in
recent decades, and I expect the demand for higher education will continue
to rise. At the same time, the costs of higher education have outstripped
our available resources.
Funding for a world-class research university relies on a four-legged stool: significant state and federal funding, contributions from the private sector, and support from students and families. As pressures on state government increase, so has our need to rely on the other three legs of the stool. This proposal asks students and their families, as well as our alumni and donors, to help so we can preserve the value of a UW-Madison education and continue contributing ideas and solutions to the state and nation.
I am certain that you will have questions about the initiative and I refer
you to a new Web site, http://madisoninitiative.wisc.edu for more
We will hold a number of forums and meetings with students and other
members of our community to discuss the proposal, answer questions and seek feedback.
The first forum will be held in 19 Ingraham Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday,
March 26. The second, sponsored by ASM, will be held at 4 p.m. on Monday, March 30, in Gordon Commons.
I hope you will take every opportunity to inform yourselves and think seriously about the initiative. I look forward to discussing it with you and hope you will support its aims and strategies.