MILWAUKEE — The pandemic accelerated headwinds for higher education institutions in 2020. But with declining enrollment and ongoing worries over student debt, 2021 is also a concern.
TMJ4's Charles Benson talked with the President of Marquette University and the Chancellor at UW-Milwaukee about the difficult decisions facing them this year.
Freshmen Alan Angulo has made the best of his higher education journey at Marquette University during the pandemic.
"I've gotten a really good hybrid education so far, both digital and in-person," said Angulo.
It's worked out for senior Joshuah Ellis Jr at UW-Milwaukee, but he reminisces about what he's missed.
"Just going to classes and physically communicate and have face to face conversations with my professors," said Ellis.
Two shared experiences from students from two different universities that actually have a lot in common these days.
Marquette University's Mike Lovell is President of a private, Jesuit school with 11,500 students and a yearly tuition of $45,000
UW-Milwaukee Mark Mone leads a public, secular school with 32,000 total enrollment and a $9,600 yearly tuition.
There's a lot to talk about these days when it comes to education.
Benson: What is the hardest decision you will have to make in 2021 that will impact education at Marquette University.
Dr Lovell: First of all, the hardest thing we have to face is how do we address our current situation? Whether it be the health situation on our campus, keep everybody healthy. But the economics, whether it be things around social justice. How do we ensure that we address those issues and for Marquette it's how do we uphold our Catholic, Jesuit values identity in the face of these current challenges?
Marquette needs to eliminate 225 positions by 2022 to save $34 million. A decision many worry will cut into the school's commitment to liberal arts and humanities as it prepares students for jobs needed in the future.
"We need to look at where the growth areas opportunities are," said Lovell. And so we are continuing to invest in areas such as nursing, such as data science, such as biomedical engineering."
Cost-saving moves at UWM included furloughs but Chancellor Mone sees tougher decisions ahead to address huge budget challenges.
"I think we're going to see the first three to six months of the year with a continuation around both the testing and promulgation of safe healthy environments for our campus," said Dr. Mone. "And then the real significant budget challenges that are in front of us."
Tuition freezes have changed the economic model for UWM but Chancellor Mone says the need for a higher education workforce has not.
"80% of our graduates land and leave and go into both the fastest growing and the highest demand areas in the state of Wisconsin," said Mone.
For Angulo at Marquette, he hopes a medical degree is in the future. "The Jesuit ideals of education being so, so important, is going to be preserved here specifically."
For Ellis at UW-Milwaukee, his goal is to cross the finish line this year with a degree in journalism.
"Just getting good grades and being able to graduate during the pandemic will be a huge blessing to me as well as my family.
Watch Charles Benson's story on declining enrollment and tuition costs on TMJ4 News at 6 p.m. and how the push to increase diversity can help close Milwaukee's equity gap on TMJ4 News at 10 p.m.