The University of Wisconsin Board of Regents on Thursday okayed a fix to the sweeping reorganization plan it approved last month so that online associate degrees meet national accreditation standards.
The action by regents at the regular meeting in Madison will place Associate of Arts and Sciences degrees earned online and through UW’s Flexible Option under an as yet unnamed four-year institution, instead of UW Central Administration, as mapped out in the reorganization plan adopted Nov. 9.
The controversial reorganization plan merges UW System’s 13 two-year UW Colleges campuses with four-year institutions, as of July 1. The reorganization effectively dissolves UW Colleges administration, but keeps the campuses open. UW Extension would join UW-Madison, while other Extension divisions including Continuing Education, Outreach, and E-Learning — which administers Flexible Option — were to move to UW System Administration. UW Colleges Online also becomes part of the system’s central administration.
The Higher Learning Commission advised system administrators that the Associate of Arts and Sciences degree can only be offered by an institution accredited as a degree-granting authority.
Instead of seeking accreditation for System Administration, President Ray Cross asked regents to alter the reorganization plan to “maintain accreditation continuity.”
Cross told regents he was working with four-year campuses to identify “the most appropriate institution for delivering these modalities.”
Regent Margaret Farrow, a former lieutenant governor, unexpectedly announced her retirement from the board. Farrow noted she had recently turned 83 and said she wanted time to devote to "avocations," like the quilts she is making for her grandchildren. She was appointed to the board by Gov. Scott Walker in 2013 and her term was set to expire in May of 2020.
Regents also adopted a model for outcome-based funding that will be used to distribute $26.25 million in new funding to campuses next year. And they approved a policy to monitor faculty and instructional staff workload for rewards.
Regent Tony Evers cast the lone vote against each measure. He remarked that outcome-based had been shown to be effective in helping colleges meet their performance goals and that the monitoring of classroom time for compensation “diminishes” the work of the system’s teachers. “And it serves no purpose,” he said.
Walker’s budget required both measures, so regents were taking action to comply with the law, but they added a performance metric to the outcomes-based funding model Thursday: job placement rate of each institution.
The other goals and policies are:
- Growing and ensuring student access by enrolling more Wisconsin high school graduates, low-income and underrepresented students, and transfer students.
- Improving student progress and completion by increasing the number of undergraduates who have earned 30 credit hours, 90 credit hours, undergraduate degrees, and post-baccalaureate degrees.
- Expanding contributions to the workforce by increasing graduates in STEM and health-related disciplines, low-income graduates, and research and public service expenditures.
- Enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness by improving the ratio of expenditures to institutional funding compared to similar institutions, and the average number of credit hours required for an undergraduate degree; decreasing average student debt on graduation; and increasing the number of degrees awarded per 100 full-time employees.
- System Vice President Jim Henderson, who led a task force that developed the metrics for the outcome-based funding, said performance data would be analyzed early this summer and funds distributed in the first quarter of the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
The policy for monitoring instructional staff’s teaching hours for rewards doesn’t not include time they spend on research or outreach, something for which UW-Madison faculty had advocated, as well as Chancellor Rebecca Blank.
The policy will be revisited every five years.