Press Release: Gov. Evers to Ask Legislature to Approve Largest Increase in State Support for UW System in Over Two Decades

Office of Governor Tony Evers
Gov. Evers to Ask Legislature to Approve Largest Increase in State Support for UW System in Over Two Decades
UW System campus financial assessments highlight need for significant state investment after years of inadequate funding and budget cuts
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers today released the following statement in reaction to the University Financial Assessments released by the University of Wisconsin (UW) System for seven UW campuses: UW-Green Bay, UW-Oshkosh, UW-Parkside, UW-Platteville, UW-River Falls, UW-Superior, and UW-Whitewater. The assessments examine the strained financial circumstances facing UW System campusesa consequence driven largely by both disinvestment in the UW System over the last decade-plus and inadequate recent state investments approved by the Wisconsin State Legislature to make the UW System whole.

Republican lawmakers have spent more than a decade waging war on public education in Wisconsin, including our UW System and higher education institutions, and have consistently refused to make the necessary, meaningful investments our state and our campuses desperately need to compete and that our students deserve. And the consequences of Republicans’ actions and inaction over the last decade-plus were laid bare in these financial assessments,” said Gov. Evers.  


Our UW System is the economic engine of our state and a critical part of our states future success. One thing I know many Republican legislators and I have in common is that we wouldn’t be where we are today without the education we received from our public universities and the UW System,” Gov. Evers continued. “And yet, even as we face generational, statewide workforce challenges in Wisconsin, Republicans not only unconstitutionally withheld pay raises and obstructed capital building projects but have consistently refused to fully approve the important investments I’ve consistently requested over the last five years.

“The simple fact is this: finally addressing the challenges facing students, faculty, and staff at our UW System campuses through meaningful long-term investments must be a top priority for the next state budget. I will be asking the Legislature to approve the largest increase in state support for the UW System in more than two decades,” Gov. Evers said. “UW campuses are already making difficult decisions, laying off and furloughing employees and restructuring and cutting altogether important programs and operations and staff, making student retention more difficult, and students, faculty, and staff shouldn’t be expected to singlehandedly bear the costs of the Legislature’s lack of meaningful state investment for the last decade.

Investing in the UW System is critical if we want to address our state’s workforce challenges and be able to compete to recruit, train, and retain talented workers. Wisconsinites deserve a UW System that is fully funded, fully functioning, and that meets the needs of our students, our workforce, and our local communities. The Legislature must step up, and that’s what I’ll be asking them to do once again in my next proposed budget,” Gov. Evers concluded.

Most recently, during the 2023-25 biennial budget process, Republicans in the Wisconsin State Legislature rejected Gov. Evers proposed investments in the UW System, choosing instead to divert more than $31 million to the Joint Finance Committee supplemental appropriation—a fund controlled by the committee’s Republican majority, which persistently refuses to expeditiously release already-approved investments from the fund—and attempting to cut 188 positions relating to efforts around diversity and equity, the latter of which Gov. Evers was able to ensure UW could retain through his broad, constitutional veto authority.    


In light of Republican lawmakers’ failure to meaningfully invest in the UW System, Gov. Evers, a month after enacting the biennial budget, called a special session of the Legislature for September 2023 for the Legislature to take up his comprehensive workforce plan, which included an additional more than $100 million investment in the state’s higher education institutions, including an additional $66.4 million for the UW System to help recruit, train, and retain talent in an effort to bolster the state’s workforce.

Republicans in the Legislature refused to take up the governor’s comprehensive workforce plan, rejecting investments in Wisconsin’s universities and technical colleges even as several UW campuses have been forced to furlough and lay off employees, shift funding or make cuts, and restructure portions of campus operations. UW-Oshkosh announced last year that approximately 200 employees’ jobs were expected to end. At UW-Platteville, the university announced it would be eliminating 111 positions to help address its deficit. And UW-Green Bay announced that nine staff members would be laid off, affecting library services at their Manitowoc, Marinette, and Sheboygan campuses and a program aimed at helping high schoolers earn college credits. More recently, UW-Green Bay also announced they are considering discontinuing majors in economics, environmental policy and planning, and the arts, as well as minors in international environmental studies, geography, and physics. 
An online version of this release is available here.