Report: Wisconsin higher ed funding drops amid national hike

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin is among the states with the largest decline in higher education spending per student between 2013 and 2018, according to a new report.

The analysis by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association shows that Wisconsin's higher education funding per student fell by more than 8% during that period, from $7,002 to $6,435. Only Mississippi, West Virginia and Oklahoma saw larger declines.

The association's findings show Wisconsin is bucking the national trend since the United States overall saw a more than 15% increase in state spending per student between 2013 and 2018, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.

"When the rest of the country or most states in the country started to see increases in funding, Wisconsin started seeing declines," said Sophia Laderman, the group's senior policy analyst.

States are still spending on average $1,000 less per student than before the Great Recession, according to the report. But Wisconsin spent almost $1,500 less per student last year than the national average of $7,853, Laderman said.

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee had to slash up to $42 million from its budget from 2015 to 2017, according to Chancellor Mark Mone.

"Our faculty and staff are down about 13% since 2015, and we've had to cut some programs and reduce things," Mone said.

The entire University of Wisconsin System has seen a decline in the number of faculty since 2014, according to system data.

Mone said the 2017-2019 state budget introduced by former Republican Gov. Scott Walker helped the Milwaukee campus gain better financial footing. The budget included $35 million in new funding for the university system, and continued a freeze on tuition increases.

Democratic Gov. Tony Evers' proposed budget for 2019-2021 includes a $150 million increase for the university system's campuses. But the proposal has been met with opposition from Republicans who control the state Legislature.

The old budget will remain in effect if the Legislature doesn't pass a budget in time for Evers to sign by the start of the fiscal year, which begins July 1.