As part of an almost $100 million investment on workforce training, Gov. Scott Walker announced Sunday he plans to invest $22 million in the University of Wisconsin System in the upcoming state budget.
Walker announced Sunday morning his proposed budget would include $20 million in economic development initiatives in UW System campuses. He will also include $2 million to begin funding the system’s new flexible option degree program that will give regular degrees to non-traditional students who take online assessments.
“Overall, this is a very good set of initiatives for us in terms of what the governor has rolled out so far,” UW System spokesperson David Giroux said. “Obviously, there are a lot of details yet to be known, but we are pleased that we are going to see some reinvestment in universities.”
Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, called the proposed investments a “drop in the bucket” of the more than $300 million in cuts the UW System took over the past two years. Those cuts came as the state had a $3.6 billion deficit and in a budget lapse months after. Walker has said the UW System would not get a budget lapse this biennium.
Walker also seeks to establish a core credit transfer system that would make 30 general education credits transferrable between UW System and Wisconsin technical colleges. Private and tribal colleges have an option to participate in the system.
Given the roughly 17,000 transfer students in the system last year, a record number, Giroux said that proposal is something the UW System wants to pursue.
The budget process, set to begin Feb. 20 when Walker releases his budget, comes at a time of recent problems at the UW System regarding overpayments.
Since the launch of a new human resource system in 2011, the system overpaid more than $33 million in benefit and retirement payments, about $20 million of which it has already recovered.
At a Board of Regents committee meeting Thursday, a UW System auditor announced she has found $1.1 million more in other issues and could find more problems as the system’s own audit and a legislative audit continue.
Giroux recognized the UW System has work to do in “build[ing] confidence” among legislators, who have to approve Walker’s budget initiatives. Giroux added the system’s transparency in dealing with this issue would help in that process.
“We don’t want anybody to be left with the impression that we’re trying to downplay that or sweep it under the rug,” Giroux said.
In other budget measures, Walker seeks a $5 million increase in state aid to technical colleges and a new performance-based funding system for technical colleges. In K-12 education, Walker seeks $11.5 million for a requirement that students take the ACT and its precursor tests to evaluate college and workforce readiness.
Walker also wants to invest $17 million in general purpose revenue for its soon-to-be required job training for able-bodied FoodShare recipients, as well as $22.65 million for rural health care access improvement.
In non-budget legislation, Walker also wants to develop a better system for tracking available jobs, give $15 million over the biennium in worker training grants and create a new Office of Skills Development at the state’s labor agency.