Since the May 8 vote to adopt the Madison Initiative for Undergraduates by the University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents, administrators have been working diligently toward its implementation, hiring new staff and taking a close look at need-based student aid.
“We really have to be responsive to the Madison Initiative,” Provost Paul DeLuca Jr said. “The state went the extra mile for us and there are two parts to that: student aid and resolving the specifics of the initiative.”
Over the summer, an oversight committee was put together to listen to proposals from every school and college at the university for how to best address the key objectives of the initiative, including oversold classes, bottlenecked courses, insufficient faculty and instruction modes, according to DeLuca.
Many of these issues have already seen significant progress, according to Dean of Students Lori Berquam.
“As soon as is practical, there is going to be an update on the website so that all the students will be aware of what faculty were added and where they were added and what sections were opened up, because more people were hired,” Berquam said.
She added the financial aid office has been looking at need-based aid for students, especially how to immediately offset the raise in tuition associated with the Madison Initiative.
Phased in over the next four years, the Madison Initiative will be partially funded through differential tuition charges, raising tuition for in-state undergraduates by $250 a year and out-of-state undergraduates by $750 a year over the next four years.
Matched by private donors, Berquam said gradually raising tuition was the best way to fund the initiative to quickly give students the benefits it seeks to provide.
“I think it’s about really impacting the undergrad experience not four years from now, but now,” Berquam said. “You are the students who are paying for it, let’s have benefits now for our students that are here.”
According to Berquam, the initial focus of the Madison Initiative will be on the College of Letters and Sciences, which has been strongly affected by budget cuts in recent years.
DeLuca agreed it seems appropriate to focus on L&S because every school and college has some funneling through it and also because it is a key element to a liberal arts education.
“This is a magnificent institution, and the reason it is magnificent in many ways is the true liberal arts aspects in the undergraduate education,” DeLuca said. “It provides the opportunity for students to experience learning over a very wide and broad spectrum.”
Associated Students of Madison Vice Chair Tom Templeton was elected to one of three student positions on the committee and says he hopes to utilize his resources through ASM to hear student opinions on the initiative and carry them through on this board.
“Hopefully we can spur some faculty department members and deans of the school to think critically and really start looking at the curriculum and how they can expand it and improve it,” Templeton said.
Chancellor Biddy Martin could not be reached for comment due to illness.