Students attended the open forum Wednesday night where Chancellor Andrew Leavitt spoke about university finances, specifically budget cuts, and the merging of UW Oshkosh’s campus with UW-Fox Valley and UW-Fond du Lac.
UWO is facing budget cuts for the next three years, which will potentially affect students through campus involvement and financials.
Leavitt said UWO is currently considering a proposal to separate the winter interim from fall semester, so students would pay for winter interim class by credit, which is how summer interim classes currently are managed.
“Currently about 25 percent of the students that take interim pay for their credit hours and 75 percent of the students take advantage of the tuition plateau from the previous semester,” Leavitt said. “So we’re not eliminating the plateau, you can still take up to 12 to 18 credit hours at no additional cost in the fall and the spring, but what we are doing is severing the connection between the semesters and the interims.”
Leavitt said he believes students may worry about class availability and whether or not their programs will be eliminated and the University Alignment Committee, a faculty-led group, will help with those recommendations.
Leavitt said he doesn’t know which specific majors or programs will be cut and he will know sometime next year.
“We need to be responsible in evaluating all of our programs, both academic and non-academic, to make sure they’re doing what we want them to do,” Leavitt said.
Other programs that affect students will face budget cuts, such as the Student Titan Employment Program.
Leavitt said the program is about $450,000 to $500,000 a year and was started seven or eight years ago and originally meant to be a one-year temporary program.
“I understand the power and popularity of STEP for students and faculty and staff and that’s why we are going to preserve the program,” Leavitt said. “But it’s certainly going to have to be reduced because we simply can’t afford all the things that we pay for.”
Leavitt said the Central Support of Athletics is a program that he started when he first came to UWO and it also will be cut.
“And the obligation is now on athletics to make up that amount of money through their fundraising and other sponsorship activities.”
Leavitt said UWO is projected to hit its institutional low in terms of enrollment in the fall of 2019.
“So that’s why we are doing everything we can now with our three-phase approach,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt said the merger was suggested by the Implementation Advisory Group, which is a group of citizens and students who help advise on the university’s restructuring.
“In the long run, I think it is going to be very beneficial,” Leavitt said. “We are going to create the kind of university that will be very attractive to students, whether they are traditional students or adult learners in this region and beyond.”
Leavitt said he thinks the merger will make UWO more successful by increasing enrollment.
“So initially we will keep the campuses separate, in terms of their finances. That’s partly because of the transitional period that we are going through with the system, but it also will allow each campus to kind of get their house in order before we join them more formally in the future, through joining their finances,” Leavitt said.
Senior Madeline Hass said she is concerned about the budget and programs being cut.
“I’m a humanities major,” Hass said. “I’m majoring in history, philosophy and German, and at least two of those I would be worried would be on the chopping block because I know those are smaller programs. I think that those are hugely valuable programs.”
Senior Kyla Brown said it’s nice to hear Leavitt confirm things in person and that she feels more comfortable now.
“One of my big concerns is student identity and campus identity and the fact that it sounds like we’ll be able to maintain a lot of that stuff is really encouraging, and I think it’s useful for students to know. I’m graduating next fall and my diploma is going to say UW Oshkosh on it, which I’m kind of happy about.
Brown said she is a little concerned about the budget as well and the possibility of decoupling interim.
“I would have been here a lot longer had I not been able to push three credits into the interim period,” Brown said. “So it would have been harder to take a full class load. I’m a little bit worried about students losing their financial aid if they are unable to take 12 credits in the 14 week period. That’s a huge deal for a lot of people I know.”