Community members voice concern over UW system cuts
By Nathan Vine, Stevens Point Journal
STEVENS POINT – Matthew Rosner said he's not sure if Wisconsin values his effort to get a higher education, and as a result he is thinking of seeking a career in another state when he graduates.
Rosner was among a large group of community members and students and staff from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point who attended a community forum Thursday night on campus to speak with state Rep. Katrina Shankland, D-Stevens Point, and state Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point. The focus of the event was the cuts to the University of Wisconsin System in Gov. Scott Walker's proposed state budget.
Walker is proposing $300 million in funding cuts to the UW System over the next two years, representing a 13 percent decrease from the previous biennial budget. The budget also calls for a two-year extension on tuition freezes for the UW System, but it would allow the system more flexibility to deal with the funding loss.
UWSP would lose about $6.4 million each year as a result of the cuts, about a 17 percent reduction and the largest cut in the university's 121-year history. According to UWSP Chancellor Bernie Patterson, that $6.4 million does not include another $1.5 million in cuts each year to other programs at the university with their own funding lines in the budget. Patterson has previously told Stevens Point Journal Media that "it would be impossible" to avoid layoffs at the university if the budget is adopted by the Legislature.
Rosner, 24, a senior at UWSP studying computer information systems/web and digital media development, criticized the gradual cuts over many years made by the state toward its UW System funding.
"I would expect to be able to find a good job and be a good taxpayer, and feel like I should take my tax dollars and take them somewhere else because the state hasn't supported these schools," Rosner said.
Chelsey Gravnke, 20, a junior studying acting, said she choose UWSP over other schools she was considering because she felt strongly about the quality of its education and liked the small-town atmosphere. Gravnke said she fears the school will lose those qualities if it continues to be faced with major cuts.
"It's just devastating," Gravnke said. "We shouldn't have to be ripping apart our own lives in order to keep everything we have here."
Shankland and Lassa urged those in attendance Thursday to contact legislators to voice their concerns over the UW System cuts. Lassa said that it's difficult to make issues like job creation and workforce a priority in the state if public education continues to be cut. Shankland said the issue will impact the future of the state.
"There are opportunities to fix this, and there is bipartisan concern over this budget, so that's why we have to double and triple our efforts," Shankland said. "We need to have a large coalition of people to say to legislators that enough is enough; we can't weather these cuts and you need to commit to fix it."