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An update on state budget cuts at UW-Madison focused on the impact on students.

Student employment hours have been drastically cut back because of state funding cuts, University of Wisconsin-Madison officials reported last week to UW System administrators.

Those cuts came in addition to paring of undergraduate advising services and reductions in information technology services to students, according to a campus budget impact statement that was to have been presented to the Board of Regents when it met last week in Green Bay.

UW System president Ray Cross, after consulting with Board of Regents president Regina Millner and vice president John Behling, decided not to have all the chancellors report on how they were managing their shares of a $250 million reduction in funding to the system in the 2015-2017 budget, the Wisconsin State Journal reported.

UW System authorities instead released the budget impact statements on Monday. They also released a letter from Millner to Democratic legislators alarmed at the cancellation of the campus presentations, telling them it was done to ensure transparency.

“After much discussion and reflection the decision to focus public discussions on budget implementation at the local and regional level reflects the complexity of those efforts and was made to ensure transparency and public engagement,” Millner wrote. “Each campus has taken a different, locally driven approach to implementing reductions and managing its budget. Limiting each chancellor to a mere five minutes to outline their approach to managing their portion of the reductions would not only be unfair to the chancellor, but also to Regents who need to have a deeper understanding of the impact on students.”

UW-Madison, where officials said state funding cuts were the primary basis of an $86 million budget shortfall this year, focused on the impact of reduced state funding on students in its report.

Human Resources cut 6,500 hours of student employment, while 6,300 fewer hours of student employment were available for work on research and sponsored programs, UW-Madison officials reported. “Not only do these reductions decrease the level of service, but they also reduce learning opportunities and financial support for students,” the update stated.

Cuts to undergraduate advising will impact the ability to guide students to the coursework they need, “potentially increasing time to graduation for more students,” officials said. For example, a planned increase in the number of advisers has been halted in the College of Engineering, where 17 advisers serve 6,600 students. That’s five advisers fewer than the minimum needed to serve students effectively, according to officials.

The Division of Information Technology (DoIT) operates campus computer labs where students can use design, statistical and course-specific software, as well as color printers and scanners. Funding reductions forced DoIT to close one of its 18 labs, meaning students may have to pay for those services elsewhere, campus officials said.

In addition, the anticipated cutting of a total of 418 faculty and staff positions over the 2015-2017 biennium, mainly through attrition, has left the campus unable to expand enrollment in areas of increased student interest like business, engineering and nursing.

The spending down of reserves, as demanded by the Board of Regents at the behest of state legislators, has left the campus with less than a week's worth of operating funds in reserve, UW-Madison officials say.

That’s far below recommended levels, say campus officials. Private sector organizations, for example, try to maintain cash reserves of three to four months of operating costs.

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