UW State Funding Erosion; Enrollment and Birth Rate Declines Underscore Discussion on Future of Higher Ed

Apr. 19, 2024 2:30p

(WGTD)---Carthage College President John Swallow joined Jay Rothman, president of the Universities of Wisconsin, in lamenting the gradual erosion of state support for higher education in Wisconsin.

The pair talked about the future of higher education during a Carthage luncheon Thursday that was moderated by WGTD Morning Show host Greg Berg.

 Rothman noted that just 18% of the UW’s budget is covered by funds appropriated by the legislature and governor. That level of funding for higher education ranks Wisconsin 42nd out of 50 states. “I think that says something about where the priorities are around education,” Rothman said. “The state has to decide where it wants to invest. And long term if you invest 42nd out of 50 you’re going to have a public university system that’s 42nd out of 50 in the nation. That’s just reality.”

Swallow and Rothman also decried a slippage in the number of high school graduates going to either a two or four year university or college. The statistics put Wisconsin at a rate that’s lower than most surrounding states.

“In this state it’s gone from about 60% of high school students choosing any two or four-year institution to about 50%,” Swallow said. “This is dramatic and it’s going to have consequences.”

Rothman said the issue on enrollment is not that schools won’t be able to manage the declines---the question he says is what the impact will be on the state’s economy, especially in light of an aging population and a decline in the birth rate. “It is the combination of the demographic decline and the participation rate decline that I think is really challenging for our economy and quite frankly our competitiveness in the world.”