2022 Legislative Update: UW–Madison’s positions on proposed state legislation

As an institution, the University of Wisconsin–Madison takes official positions on legislative proposals that affect the university. Here are a few of our priorities for the 2021-22 legislative session.

Investing UW–Madison’s Working Capital

The University of Wisconsin System’s annual budget is more than $6 billion. UW–Madison’s budget is more than $3 billion. Major sources of revenue include state and federal support; private gifts; auxiliaries (housing, conference services, athletics, parking, dining); and tuition. Like any financial entity of this size, the university has cash balances that ebb and flow throughout the year, in addition to certain reserves. This cash, minus any liabilities, is considered working capital at UW–Madison.

Investing working capital is standard practice at peer institutions and in the private sector. UW–Madison is uniquely constrained relative to its peers; under current law, UW System institutions may only invest revenue from private gifts and grants. Senate Bill 557 and Assembly Bill 568 would expand these flexibilities to include other sources of revenue, notably auxiliary and tuition income. Read more in this one-page handout.

Improving Minnesota Tuition Reciprocity

Wisconsin and Minnesota are among several states who have tuition reciprocity agreements. Under the current agreement, Minnesota residents can attend public institutions of higher education in Wisconsin (and vice versa) without paying nonresident tuition; instead, the student pays the higher of the two resident tuition rates.

Because resident tuition at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities is higher than at UW–Madison, Minnesota families pay the Minnesota resident tuition rate to attend UW–Madison. However, UW–Madison does not receive the full Minnesota tuition amount. Instead, UW–Madison (and other System universities) receive tuition equal to the Wisconsin in-state tuition rate. The remainder (currently about $4,000 per student per year) is retained in the State of Wisconsin general fund, a share of which is returned to Minnesota. For the 2020-21 academic year, the portion of tuition paid by Minnesota students that went into the Wisconsin general fund or back to Minnesota added up to nearly $20 million for all UW System schools combined.

The body in Wisconsin that administers the reciprocity agreement with Minnesota, and thus can negotiate changes, is the Wisconsin Higher Educational Aids Board (HEAB). Any changes negotiated by HEAB must be approved by the legislature’s joint committee on finance.

UW–Madison supports Senate Bill 717 & Assembly Bill 714, which would make two changes to current law:

  1. It would require the UW System (rather than HEAB) to enter into, administer, and renegotiate a tuition reciprocity agreement with Minnesota;
  2. It would require that tuition paid by Minnesota students to the UW System campuses would be retained by the UW System institutions, rather than being sent to the general fund.

Read more in our one-pager.

Revising the academic calendar for health sciences students

Current law prevents any UW System institution from starting Fall semester instruction before September 1, primarily to support the tourism industry in Wisconsin. There are exceptions to this law for medical students and fourth-year veterinary medicine students.

Like the standards that apply to medical and veterinary students, professional standards for pharmacy students require a combination of experiential and classroom learning. Those standards have expanded requirements since current law was passed. For that reason, UW–Madison supports legislative proposals that would expand the health sciences academic calendar to include students of the UW–Madison School of Pharmacy (UW SOP) and School of Nursing.

  1. Lengthening the academic calendar for pharmacy students will allow faculty to reschedule classes to create openings during the week for experiential and co-curricular learning opportunities.
  2. Extending the academic calendar will increase teaching hours for faculty within the School of Pharmacy, a concern previously expressed by state legislators.
  3. Private schools in Wisconsin are not bound by this start date. UW-Madison programs are at a competitive disadvantage to our private peers. Creating continuity between the health sciences academic calendars of private and public schools would help alleviate potential confusion at clinical sites as well.

UW SOP is the only state-supported school of pharmacy in Wisconsin, and it has been consistently rated in the top ten relative to its peers. Switching to a health sciences professional calendar will help the SOP remain competitive with peer institutions and private schools of pharmacy within Wisconsin and ultimately educate pharmacists who provide high-quality care to Wisconsin citizens. Find out more about the proposal.

Meeting the demand for College of Engineering graduates

The top-ranked UW–Madison College of Engineering is the second largest school/college on campus. Its 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students are the future engineering leaders of Wisconsin, with nearly 1,500 earning degrees last year. These graduates are highly regarded and vital to the state’s workforce and economic development needs—and we need more of them.

Every year, many more students apply to be an engineering major than the College of Engineering has the capacity to accept. Expanding access to an engineering education, which helps Wisconsin’s families and economy, begins by creating more space. UW–Madison supports Senate Bill 728 and Assembly Bill 775, which would provide funding for a new, state-of-the-art building to help meet the demand for more engineering students—increasing undergraduate degrees to 5,500 per year—and to recruit and retain top-tier faculty members. Read more in the handout.

For more information on these or other legislative proposals, please contact State Relations staff.