MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- Over the past year, University of Wisconsin System campuses have laid off employees, consolidated administration, reduced advising services and cut course offerings, according to summaries outlining the impact of state funding cuts to higher education.
The UW System released summaries of how the cuts are affecting each of its 13 four-year campuses, UW Colleges and UW-Extension. The chancellors prepared the documents for presentation at last week's Board of Regents meeting, but discussion of the cuts were scrapped by system President Ray Cross and regent leaders.
The summaries describe a mix of service reductions and job cuts by not filling vacancies, employee buyouts or layoffs. They collectively provide a big-picture look at how state funding cuts have affected higher education in Wisconsin's public universities.
In the middle of a four-year tuition freeze, the UW System's state funding was cut by $250 million in the 2015-2017 budget. Each campus took a different percentage cut to help those least able to absorb the cuts.
UW-Eau Claire cut 15 percent of its workforce to accommodate a $7.7 million reduction in state funding, which was compounded by an additional loss of $1.5 million due to declining enrollment.
More than half of the system's four-year campuses said they had to increase class sizes or reduce class offerings because they lost faculty to early retirement, other universities or buyouts. The campuses either froze or permanently eliminated most vacant positions.
Cuts to the budgets for libraries and information technology services mean students now have less access to academic journals, course materials and computer lab support.
Several of the summaries included concerns from officials who are worried the cuts will hurt student retention efforts or lengthen the time it takes students to finish their degrees. Officials also are concerned that buildings won't be maintained or will take precedence over education.
UW officials have been criticized for not making time at the Regents' meeting to have chancellors talk about the impact the cuts are having on their institutions. Those critics argue that the public deserves to know more about how the state budget decisions are playing out.
Regents president Regina Millner said UW officials have encouraged chancellors to discuss the cuts more with residents, lawmakers and business groups, rather than just present to the Board of Regents.